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Getting the right mix of price and patronage in the city centre

PERTH CBD residential developments have long been hailed as the key to creating a city full of character and vibrancy.

And while people and activity make a city, some property and planning authorities say much more is needed to bring the CBD to life.

First and foremost, the exclusive price tags must be restructured to allow people on middle and lower incomes the opportunity to move into the city, according to Inner City Housing Development Authority president Derwent Southern.

“At the moment we are catering for people at the top end of the income bracket, not people in the middle and lower brackets, and a lot of work needs to be done to change that,” Mr Southern said.

“To be able to afford the cost of city housing, the minimum income is $34,000 … but then you don’t have the disposable income to go out and enjoy the city.”

Those who could not afford to buy CBD apartments were happy to rent, Mr Southern said, but the presence of too many people in this demographic could have serious ramifications for Perth.

“You need a reasonable proportion of owner-occupiers because they are the ones who will put down their roots, and anything less than 40 per cent will result in a different feel to the city,” he said.

“These will be the people creating the community.”

Colliers Jardine residential executive Nicholas Wells said that, on a macro-scale, about 60 per cent of the CBD apartments were inhabited by owner-occupiers, but this varied slightly in different areas and different developments.

Mr Wells also said while no clear buyer demographic had yet been established, buyers generally were older than 25.

Mr Southern said part of the problem of high prices had been created by eastern states-based lending institutions that applied the same formulas to Perth developments as they did to Melbourne and Sydney developments.

“To build an apartment development, one needs quite a lot of money, a lot of which is going to have to come from a bank, most of which are based in the eastern states,” he said.

“Many don’t recognise Perth is a different property market, so if there is a problem with the residential apartments sector in Melbourne, the banks tighten up lending for such developments across the board.

“If they do lend money it is under very onerous conditions, which in turn push up the price of development further.”

Perth Inner City Society president Andrew Main also pointed to a lack of services and after-hours activities as another CBD problem that needed addressing.

“I think inner city living is a good idea and you really can’t knock it … but the problem that exists with CBD living is the services are not there yet and residents have to go outside of their community for shopping and services,” Mr Main said.

“There could be subsidies and incentives offered to service providers to encourage them to move their businesses into the city, so that residents don’t have to keep going elsewhere.

“There also needs to be more sporting and community facilities.”

Curtin University architecture and planning lecturer and consultant Shane Grieve agreed strategies were needed, not only to encourage more service providers into the city, but also to protect the existing ones.

“We really need to look after the specialty retail shops and services that bring a kind of diversity to the city that is simply not found out in the suburbs,” Mr Grieve said.

However, Mr Wells believed lack of services was a common criticism of the CBD that would not be around for much longer.

“People often criticise the city and say there is nowhere to shop and nothing to do, but it is all there,” he said.

“And as more people move into the city, more services will follow … there will always be a person willing to supply a service where there is demand.”

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