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Inner city living stage set in the ’80s: Conti

ALTHOUGH inner city living has gained in popularity in the past five years, the stage was set in the late 1980s, says Time Conti Sheffield managing director Paul Conti.

He was speaking at a recent BIS Shrapnel lunch on the issue of city apartment living – fact or fantasy.

While he would not comment on whether inner city living was fact or fantasy, he did say the early 1990s witnessed a number of initiatives at all levels of government.

These initiatives were the catalyst for the inner city, or urban renewal, movement.

Mr Conti commented that the Building Better Cities Program, Metroplan, AMCORD, AMCORD Urban, The City Planning Scheme, the City Planning Scheme review and the Innercity Living Taskforce Report, together with City Vision, were the beginning of urban consolidation and renewed interest in city living.

The 1991 announcement of the East Perth Redevelopment funded by the Federal Government under the Building Better Cities Program and the Homeswest residential development on the corner of Bennett and Goderich Street in East Perth followed by that of the Railways Institute Building in Wellington Street set inner city living in motion.

“These initiatives were after the 1989 commercial property collapse which provided realistic land values, making inner city residential developments feasible,” Mr Conti said

“Initially the inner city movement was fuelled by investors who had identified the residential inner city real estate market as a strong capital growth prospect,” he said.

“The residential market had been in recession since the end of 1988.

“By 1993, the share market yields were low and stock prices high.

“Superannuation was not performing, interest rates were relatively low and availability of finance was not a problem,” Mr Conti said.

“These economic conditions, together with the focus on the inner city, urban consolidation and renewal, were key factors in the investor demand for inner city residential real estate.

“Developers such as the Fini Group, Elmbridge Pty Ltd and Blackburne and Co identified the opportunities and undertook a number of successful developments.”

“At the time, sales were about 90 per cent to investors and the remainder to owner-occupiers,” he said.

Today, demand is equally investor and owner-occupier driven.

By 1996, concerns were developing among Australian investors as to a possible oversupply of inner city apartments.

“This led to a flurry of overseas sales, particularly to the Asian market, which has demonstrated confidence in the local inner city residential market,” Mr Conti told the luncheon.

“Most developments sold off the plan prior to completion with 50 per cent of the sales to overseas buyers.

“The forecast oversupply did not occur,” he said.

“In 1998, during the Asian economic crisis, there were again predictions of doom for the inner city residential property market.

“Because of increased interest by owner-occupiers, the product has also changed from mainly 75 square metres to 85 square metre, two-bedroom apartments to a mix of two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments ranging in size from 85 square metres to 150 square metres with some penthouses over 200 square metres,” he said.

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