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Bridging the north-south divide

FROM ancient Rome to Sydney, the pattern of a city’s urban expansion runs parallel to the development of major new infrastructure, principally its transport links.

As a simple rule, the cost of housing decreases as suburbs sprawl further and further from the roads that are cities’ lifeblood.

Australia’s reliance on automotive transport has played an exacting role in land prices in metropolitan areas.

However, this relationship also provides for increased land and housing prices in areas that become more accessible to the city following road extensions.

This is exactly what has happened to the south of Perth as a result of extensions to the Kwinana Freeway.

Suburbs including Settlers Hills, Kennedy Park and Rockingham are experiencing price adjustments, now that Perth is only 30 minutes away via the freeway.

There are even suggestions that house and land prices in the south will start to compete with suburbs a similar distance from the city to the north as pressure for property in the northern corridor increases.

The freeway running north-south in Perth almost maps urban development of the city’s metropolitan area.

As the freeway snaked up the coast, new suburbs were opened up, boasting quick access to the city.

These areas traditionally have attracted new families keen to capitalise on lower land prices and new infrastructure.

The metropolitan areas to the north of Perth developed faster, capitalising on the ocean views and proximity to industrial areas.

The extension of the freeway to the south of the city has opened up new parcels of land in close proximity to the coast and with fast access to Perth.

These new suburban subdivisions are competing with new developments to the north of the city and, as housing prices start to rise, areas like Settlers Hills pose real competition for the estates to the north of the city, such as Mindarie and Beaumaris.

Trevor Lees is the sales consultant for Settlers Hills, a residential estate that sits at the end of the Kwinana Freeway.

He said the traditional buyer base had shifted with the completion of the freeway to include people from as far north as Joondalup.

“I get quite a good cross section of people, I don’t get a lot of first home buyers because in the Rockingham Shire they can get land quite a bit cheaper,” Mr Lees said.

It’s understood there are plans to develop a major regional shopping centre in the area, however that will only follow significant growth in the residential population.

Mr Lees is confident the southern suburbs will start to compete with property to the north of the city, pushing up the price of houses in developments like Settlers Hills.

“The major (development) push has pushed up the northern corridor and consequently it has built up the infrastructure support, and there are higher land prices,” Mr Lees said.

“That puts a lot more pressure on the southern corridor.”

There are several other issues that affect residential housing, including proximity to work and the beach.

Colliers International manager residential Nicholas Wells said the north had a large patch of industrial land, which stimulated the residential market as people sought homes close to work.

Easy access to sandy, attractive beaches is a big drawcard for prospective buyers, not to mention ocean views.

“There will be some market catch up related to the economic value of infrastructure, but what you’re competing with in the north is Karrinyup, Galleria and Joondalup, and they’re significant regional links,” Mr Wells said.

Real Estate Institute of Western Australia public affairs manager Lino Iacomella stresses the value of beachside locations when comparing development in the north with the evolution of development in the south.

“It is known that the rapid expansion of the northern suburbs and population was assisted by the freeway and the railway, together with close proximity to the beach. It’s the beach suburbs that by in large have risen most in value,” Mr Iacomella said.

“With the southern suburbs there is potential for considerable catch up because the southern suburbs are generally more affordable. They’ve started at a lower price base.

“Infrastructure is improving, particularly with the development of the railway, which will add to the options people have.”

Major transport infrastructure also can negatively affect property prices as freeways extend and bypass existing suburbs.

Patience and Patience sales consultant Joondalup Phil Parker said people tended to buy in the newer northern suburbs.

“Woodvale has really died in the past 12 months,” Mr Parker said.

“It was at the end of the freeway but when the freeway went through it just died.”

Although the freeway isn’t the only factor affecting housing in areas like Woodvale, it can have a major psychological impact.

Real estate agents south of the city are talking about the positive impact of the freeway in conjunction with the new rail link.

Roy Weston chief executive officer Geoff Baldwin claims the property market in Kwinana has received a real boost.

“There is pressure on prices now as the stock that’s been sitting around has now dried up,” Mr Baldwin said.

However there are factors that will slow any upwards property price adjustments to the levels of suburbs in the north.

“I think one of the handicaps of the south is the fact it doesn’t have access to the coast because of the industrial strip,” Mr Baldwin said.

“But, having said that, the other big pressure is that there’s no land in the north and people that could previously go north and get a reasonably priced block of land are now going south.

“Rockingham has been under-valued for a long time now and it’s a terrific place to invest in.”

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