Lack of higher density housing impacts diverse supply | Ralph Lauren

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Perth homes are failing to meet the needs of the modern buyer, with a critical report finding when compared to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, Western Australia’s capital had the least diverse housing stock.

The research, conducted in partnership between The University of Sydney, The University of Adelaide and Curtin University – backed by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), blamed Perth’s poor standing largely on the lack of apartments, with units contributing to less than seven per cent of the city’s cache.

Comparatively, the 2016 Census found almost a third of housing in Sydney was apartments, leaving Curtin University Professor Steven Rowley to conclude that WA had a long way to go in catching up.

“Whilst we have seen an increase in the proportion of apartments and townhouses in the last five years, it takes a long time to alter the overall diversity of stock,” Professor Rowley said.

“WA has seen very low levels of new supply over the last four years, particularly in comparison to the boom period of 2012-16, and whilst the proportion of apartments had been relatively high during this period, supply has been largely concentrated in certain areas.

“This includes Perth city and some inner suburbs such as Applecross and South Perth.

“Townhouse development is sporadic although there are more appearing in outer suburbs, particularly masterplanned communities where developers are trying to provide a product choice.”

On the flip side of meagre apartment numbers, the AHURI report showed Perth was almost leading the way in terms of separate housing stock, second only to Tasmania with 79 per cent.

Other research highlights included the big drop in three-bedroom houses and a spike in four or more bedroom dwellings from 2006-16.

The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning Postdoctoral Research Associate Catherine Gilbert noted Perth’s prevalent opinion that four-by-two homes were safer investments, the city’s demand for more affordable housing options close to the CBD, and the preference to buy in outer suburbs rather than engage in shared ownership or more complex arrangements.

She said other inhibitors to diverse supply included Perth’s previously sluggish housing market which discouraged lending for less conventional developments, saw domination of less flexible developers and impacted willingness to deviate from low-risk housing products.

“The poor quality of some medium-density development delivered by small-scale mum and dad investors can fuel community opposition to medium-density development in established residential areas,” Dr Gilbert said.

“However, masterplanned, demonstration projects by DevelopmentWA were seen as very positive and a good example of how government leadership can help development challenges and demonstrate viability of new products.

“That said, developers emphasised that in order to replicate those schemes or products, they need similar conditions such as access to large development sites in particular and funding to support delivery of affordable housing for low-income groups.”

Professor Rowley agreed the government must work to create conditions that enthused developers if Perth’s housing supply – in particular medium-density developments – was going to pick up speed.

He said apartments were often unprofitable to develop outside of Perth’s high-value suburbs, however the wheels were starting to turn with developers such as Stockland offering townhouses on their subdivisions and hopefully paving the way for a new and more affordable mix of options.

Other factors ripening Perth for housing variety were projects such as Metronet, which Professor Rowley said would help stimulate conditions that drove mixed development such as improved local amenity and reduced reliance on cars.

He said while it was clear houses were Perth’s preference, things were moving in the right direction and he was optimistic about future diversity.

“It is clear demand for medium-density dwellings exists, and while the work we have done at Curtin on housing aspirations shows houses remain the preference, they don’t need to be separate houses,” Professor Rowley said.

“There is a major role for apartments and I don’t think COVID-19 will affect the future demand for quality, well-located apartments in WA.

“Precinct level developments offering a mix of different dwelling types at different price points will be the way forward.”

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