Perth sets sights on urban infill future
Western Australia, and Perth in particular, is home to some stunning landscapes and biodiversity. However, the epidemic of urban sprawl is not only threatening the unique outback and bush settings at Perth’s outer limits, but also the lifestyles of the city’s residents. Many industry bodies and civil groups advocate for urban infill – that is, building new apartments, townhouses and houses for sale within the inner and middle suburbs of the city, rather than extending the boundaries.
Why isn’t urban infill happening now?
Well, in short, it is. But not to the extent that many would like. Every time houses for sale are bought, subdivided and replaced with townhouses or smaller units, urban infill is taking place. The same applies to apartment buildings being built in brownfield sites.
However, governments and planning systems can be slow-moving beasts. While the state wants to promote use of inner- and middle-suburb land, some policies – which can be a step in the right direction for other purposes – can make it harder for infill to take place. For example, the first home owner grant (FHOG) in WA.
“By aiming the FHOG to new constructions only, first home buyers who want more affordable, established homes in older suburbs are being disadvantaged,” said REIWA president David Airey.
“This decision is pushing many first home buyers to the urban fringes, contrary to the State Government’s own urban infill policy.”
Of course, there is also opposition to the cutting up and re-parcelling of old, leafy suburbs. This can be felt from established home owners who wish to retain the character of their suburbs, and protect the value of houses for sale in the area.
However, the counter argument is that creating affordable, higher-density housing solutions in these areas will allow more young families to enjoy growing up in these established neighbourhoods – along with all of the amenities these areas tend to offer.
Who is in favour of urban infill for real estate in Perth?
The Property Council of Australia reports that a wealth of civil society groups and industry bodies are interested in the opportunities that infill housing has for Australian citizens. This is particularly the case in Perth, where urban sprawl is changing the character of the city and stretching it beyond its means.
The range of groups coming out in support of rejuvenating brownfield sites is incredible, with everyone on board from the WA branch of the Planning Institute of Australia through to the Heart Foundation.
“Liveable, compact neighbourhoods are good for health. Healthy design creates the ‘nearness factor’ – where most of our needs – shops, schools, workplaces, public transport and recreation are in close walkable or cycle-able distance to where we live,” said Heart Foundation CEO Maurice Swanson.
“Healthy urban design is linked with lower chronic disease, lower obesity and better heart health.”
And it’s not just our health that stands to benefit from better use of our urban spaces. The advantages for our unique Australian environment are also manifold.
“The environmental benefits of infill development are clear. For every sustainable apartment that is built, less energy is used, less waste is created, less natural bushland is destroyed and more trips are taken by public transport,” said Conservation Council Director Piers Verstegen.
The WA government has outlined that small-scale infill development over time will also help the city to achieve its housing targets, coping with a fast expanding population.
With so many positives on offer, Perth stands to gain a lot from using its land more wisely. Hopeful the local and state governments will be able to find a way to decrease the rate at which the city expands, so that it can concentrate on housing its growing populace within its existing infrastructure.