Leading demographer Simon Kuestenmacher says the CBD will still thrive, despite millennials moving to outer suburbs.
National demographer Simon Kuestenmacher says Perth’s population will still drift to the outer fringes, despite the city not being impacted as severely by COVID-19 lockdowns as the eastern states.
The co-founder and director at The Demographics Group, headed by Bernard Salt, said millennials were moving out of Perth’s inner suburbs, but not solely due to COVID-19.
“Western Australia was completely closed off, so you would be excused to think that certain trends are not visible in WA that you see elsewhere, but that is not the case,” he said.
He added that the trend of seeing people move out of inner-city areas to places within two hours from the CBD, which he described as a “regional renaissance”, would occur in Perth.
“We are overlooking the single biggest driver [which] is simply that … the biggest generation in Australia, the millennials just happened to shift into a new life stage, the family formation stage of the life cycle, just as the pandemic hit.”
Speaking to Business News ahead of his Property Council of Australia event, Mr Kuestenmacher said a lack of housing supply in the suburbs would mean a lot of these millennials would move further out of the city than anticipated.
He said the low supply of housing stock was largely due to baby boomers resisting the call to downsize.
“Australians don't downsize unless they have to … the housing stock of the baby boomer is not moving anywhere,” he said.
“That's the big picture shift that's happening… in the decade ahead you’ll just see people skipping the middle suburbs, you will see urban fringe growth.”
Mr Kuestenmacher added that given millennials make up the largest proportion of the workforce, there would be a push back against working in the city.
He said the pandemic opened the possibility for people to work from home, which many would look to continue.
“They will fight this … they will want to maximise time with the family, the easiest way to maximise time with family is to kill the commute, so the motivation to go back will be very small,” he said.
“This is regardless of pandemic lockdown experiences, which is why Perth will be hit by this phenomenon… as much as Melbourne or Sydney.”
He added that the CBD was still the focal point of business activity and the “most important element of any major city in Australia” despite workers spending less time there than pre-pandemic.
“You won't see growth in the middle of nowhere, because people still need to be able to commute to the CBD if need be - that's the hybrid work reality,” he said.
“It stretches population growth a bit more evenly, it allows us to build housing in a wider variety of geographies.”
This comes as BHP, Chevron and Woodside announced they would look to encourage their workers to adopt a hybrid approach, potentially prompting an influx of 8,000 workers returning to the CBD.
Mr Kuestenmacher is speaking at a Property Council of Australia WA Division event on May 18.