Car parks vs infill (the debate continues)

Samantha Reece attended the recent Committee for Perth luncheon where Dr Julian Bolleter of Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC) tested the idea of finding room for density.

Dr Bolleter stated that from 2001 – 2010 Perth had seen the clearance of 351 hectares of land to make way for greenfields development, something that many will argue is simply not sustainable.

But Dr Bolleter provided some other alternatives for accommodating our growing population, which really were quite eye opening.

As he stated, 20% of the Perth suburban core are backyards which equates to 132sqm/person.  In the UK this figure is 75sqm/person.  If the Perth suburban core was to reduce our backyards to 75sqm/person we could accommodate 115,000 new infill homes.

Dr Bolleter then spoke about the fact that 12% of the Perth suburban core is asphalt, which represents 78sqm/person.  These represent car parks and the like.  In Manhattan this ratio is 9sqm/person.  If Perth was just to reduce this ratio to 64sqm/person than this could accommodate 203,000 new infill dwellings.

Freeway reserves represent 20sqm/person and if we could reduce this to 16sqm/person this would accommodate 50,000 new dwellings.  And as Dr Bolleter stated, if we made these light industrial areas, this could generate 95,000 new jobs and allow for the development of affordable housing where people can work and live in the one precinct.

And finally Dr Bolleter examined the golf courses.  At present there is 14sqm/person of golf courses in the core suburban area but when you look at the Mt Lawley golf course, its membership base of 1000 represents 900sqm/member.  With golf club memberships declining, and a golf course in the USA shutting its doors every 48 hours, this is certainly something that could be considered for density.

As Dr Bolleter stated, if we could reduce the golf course ration to 7sqm/person this alone would accommodate another 86,000 infill dwellings.

At the end of the day, it is obvious that there are opportunities to accommodate more houses and people in our city, we just need to be prepared to think outside the box and we were very grateful for Dr Bolleter’s insights and the chance to change our paradigm of thought!

Whilst some of Dr Bolleter’s suggestions would impact on Perth’s declining green space and tree coverage, an already acknowledged issue, rethinking our use of space could open up residential and employment opportunities … and create the demand needed for improved public transport – something that is also essential to Perth’s growth.

What do you think about this concept?

So what is the outlook for 2016?

Many of you will be aware that Samantha Reece is moderating the 2016 Property Council Outlook Lunch on 19th February.

This should be an interesting session dealing with office, retail, industrial and residential.

2016 has already started with a mixed bag of emotions, with some banks predicting a 3-5% property price adjustment and even going as far as to use the word “recession.” On the other hand we are also hearing from some sectors of the property industry that sales have started well in 2016 (compared to YTD) while others are predicting this will be a year of stabilisation.

We recently received the latest edition of the Committee for Perth fact sheet and as always this does provide a great deal of clarity.

Sure in 2014/2015 the mining sector shed 12,900 jobs but our employment rate still grew 1.1%.

And while Western Australia has the fastest growing economy, it is the ranking on business investment (which was down by 12.3%) and unemployment (now at 6.3%) which appears to be our downfall. Overall WA was ranked 5th nationally by CommSec’s State of State Report.

And while population growth in 2013/14 fell from 2.6% to 1.9% it is still expected to recover to 2.2% in 2017/18.

But regardless of these stats, the State still accounted for 26% of Australia’s business investment in 2014-15. And furthermore in November 2015, WA accounted for 56% of the value of Australia’s resource projects under construction or committed, according to the Office of the Chief Economist.

And in September 2015, there was $171 billion worth of resource projects under construction or committed in Western Australia and a further $110.4 billion under consideration, according to the Western Australia Department of Mines and Petroleum.

This in turn is matched with $24 billion of State Government investment which includes Perth Stadium, Perth City Link, Elizabeth Quay and Perth Children’s Hospital, to name just a few.

However what is most concerning is that across a range of goods, Perth is still the most expensive city in Australia and New Zealand, ranking alongside Tokyo, New York and Paris in overall prices.

With the mining sector certainly reflecting a significant adjustment in 2014/15, WA has followed suit and it just demonstrates how lax we have been, as a state, to actually utilise the boom time to grow other industries so that we are more sustainable.

But this also indicates that WA is going to have to focus on business investment and think outside of the box in order to leverage ourselves into a more positive economic position over the forthcoming 12 months.

There are certainly still plenty of positive signs, but take heed, if you continue to do business as usual – despite these indicators – you will undoubtedly suffer. However as with all challenges, often companies that are innovative come to the fore and we are seeing that on a daily basis.

There is no doubt that this will be the year to invest, and as our data shows if you choose close to a major piece of infrastructure your capital returns will defy the overall Perth median – and let’s face it, there are plenty of infrastructure projects to choose from thanks to State Government and private investment.

Perth is evolving and as they say – no pain no gain. Just make sure that you are prepared to maximise on these changing economic conditions so that you can be ahead of the pack!

For a full copy of the Committee for Perth fact sheet click here: