04/04/2012 - 10:50

Experts argue density key to a bigger Perth

04/04/2012 - 10:50

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Experts argue density key to a bigger Perth

Improving Perth’s housing density was high on the agenda at a Property Council seminar last week on making Perth a city that ‘works’, with finance, infrastructure and community acceptance raised as possible roadblocks.

WA Planning Commission chair Gary Prattley, City of Vincent mayor Alannah MacTiernan, Landcorp metro development general manager Luke Willcock and Pindan Constructions development management director Nick Allingame joined an industry panel, which focused on how Perth would house a growing population with a long-term plan.

Ms MacTiernan said she was working to “sell the story” of density to the City of Vincent community, but said infrastructure was going to be a major hurdle.

“We are talking about urban consolidation and the need to get density but it is not going to work unless we have got that base service infrastructure,” she said.

“We have got to massively increase the strength of the energy supply, water supply and public transport.”

Posed with the question of whether he supported the idea of a sovereign wealth fund for infrastructure, Mr Prattley said he would and added that the Commonwealth government would do well to provide developers some financial assuredness.

“Outside of infrastructure, if the Commonwealth provided a fund that underwrote the spending for innovative projects we would see a lot more happening,” he said. 

“That is one way they could move very quickly to provide the guarantee that would enable the finance sector to make developments happen.”

The forum heard concerns from the Greens’ Scott Ludlam that there was not enough of focus on increased density in order to reduce came to urban sprawl.

Mr Prattley maintained best practice was being used in greenfields development and Mr Allingame said traditional land development was a way of bankrolling higher-density developments. 

“The problem with high density is it is very equity and debt intensive. The banks don’t have a great deal of appetite for it at the moment so in some ways you have to push out the traditional lots initially to de-risk the high density down the track,” Mr Allingame said.

“The reality is you still have to finance it, and the easiest way to get the finance is being able to get houses happening by doing traditional lots, then high density will follow.”

The best way of getting community acceptance of high-density development is to slowly introduce the concept, according to Mr Willcock.

“What we need to do is find places where the community will accept it and where you can grow and show it is going to work,” he said.

“If we just open it up and say you can build anywhere, you might end up in a position where you get so much push back, you will end up not getting anything through anywhere.”

He said high density did not have to mean high rise buildings.

“You don’t necessarily have to go to eight or nine storeys to get density,” he said.

“You can get some really good density into two or three storeys, without having to add lifts and fire regulations. I think Perth might be more accepting of that in the short term,” he said.

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