23/09/2010 - 00:00

New policy will change the way WA builds

23/09/2010 - 00:00


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WITH the state government pushing for nearly half of all new Western Australian houses to be constructed in infill areas, the reality of developing in higher densities is building on smaller blocks.

WITH the state government pushing for nearly half of all new Western Australian houses to be constructed in infill areas, the reality of developing in higher densities is building on smaller blocks.

The state government’s draft sub-regional strategy for central metropolitan Perth, released as part of the planning framework Directions 2031 and Beyond, forecasts Perth’s inner metropolitan population to grow approximately 29 per cent, or 205,000 people, requiring an additional 121,000 new dwellings spread across 19 local government authorities by 2031.

The framework calls for 47 per cent of new housing development to occur in urban areas.

Current residential densities for each local government area vary, from 6.9 dwellings per hectare in Peppermint Grove, to 34.5d/ha in the City of Perth.

The metropolitan average is 11.5 dwellings per hectare.

WA homebuilders are also currently building, on average, some of the largest houses in the world, at 244 square metres, more than three times larger than houses constructed in the United Kingdom.

Perth also currently has one of the lowest dwelling densities within a 25 kilometre radius of the city centre of all major Australian capitals, ranking behind Brisbane with 18.8d/ha, Melbourne 35.7d/ha and Sydney 43.6d/ha.

The only way to improve those density figures is to build smaller houses on smaller lots.

Planning Minister John Day set the wheels in motion for a review of the state’s residential zoning codes, which determine how many dwellings can be built on each hectare of land.

Mr Day said in a statement released last week the review was to ensure the policy remained “relevant and effective” and to incorporate additional provisions for multiple dwelling developments.

But how the market will receive a shift to higher densities on smaller blocks remains the question, Master Builders Association director of housing and economics Gavan Forster said.

“The big thing that came out of Directions 2031 is not just the quantum of houses, but the type of houses to be built,” Mr Forster told WA Business News.

“They want 47 per cent, or around about half to be medium density, now builders will build anything, but that target is ambitious.

“Perth’s preference historically has been single detached houses, spread along the coast, north to south, and beachfront developments.

“To get the psyche of the community to change their preferences to more medium density on smaller lots is a big ask.”

Market forecasters BIS Shrapnel’s senior project manager, Angie Zigomanis, said a major challenge would be matching product to a market likely to be defined by the first of the baby boomer generation to reaching retirement age and downsizing their homes.

“I suspect they’re not necessarily going to want to live in high-rise apartments, they’ll most likely be looking at a townhouse or unit that still has a fair amount of space,” Mr Zigomanis said.

“The challenge will be to make sure the stock suits the population, and to make sure that it’s at an affordable price.

“I think you’ll find that in those areas even downsizing from a house into a brand new townhouse, you’re not really getting much change out of selling your current home, so not much equity is being released to finance the retirement.

“Unless they do it in such a way that does release some equity, it doesn’t encourage them to make a move.”

Aspen Living chief executive Chris Lewis said another major concern with the infill strategy revolved around the provision of recreational facilities.

Mr Lewis said the framework focused on the livability and amenity of the metropolitan area, but was short on detail when it came to the provision of recreational facilities.

“People want more than just to see a little pocket park that they can go walk the dog,” Mr Lewis said.

“Those recreational and community facilities will become very active, because if you start to bring more people in, they want the recreation aspects, and then it will be beholden on the councils to deliver those activities.”



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