Middle density or the ‘missing middle’ has been discussed for the better part of a decade in Perth.
It is mentioned any time a new apartment complex pops up in an established suburb, and is rallied against by some who feel apartments would ruin the local vibe.
However, a new report from Property Council of Australia WA shows that the contentious topic is mainly supported in Western Australia.
The Close to Home report was the first report to quantify WA sentiment about increasing density in established suburbs and found that 19 per cent of Western Australians were in favour of medium density in their area, while 38 per cent were open to the possibility.
Seventeen per cent of responders were indifferent, while 27 per cent were resistant to medium density in their area.
The report surveyed 1200 residents across Perth.
Property Council of Australia WA Executive Director Sandra Brewer said the survey debunked some of the conventional wisdom about attitudes towards density, including which level of government residents believed was best placed to plan and deliver medium density.
“This first-of-its-kind data has debunked the narrative about who opposes density the most,” she said. “There has always been a prevailing attitude that it’s older, more conservative residents in leafy suburbs who are opposed to greater density and development.
“This report shows people from all age groups, backgrounds and political preferences are open to the idea of greater density, including older residents.
“Even in the group most often considered to be the most resistant to density – people in the 65-74 age bracket – more people favoured, or were open to, medium density than the number opposed.
“The Close to Home data shows what really matters to Western Australians – safety, improved transport, community, cultural vibrancy, sanctuary and affordability – can be delivered through density.”
When asked how Perth residents wanted urban density to be delivered, the popular option was townhouses (55 per cent), followed by medium-height apartments (50 per cent), creating new suburbs on the Perth outskirts (49 per cent), new property developments in existing suburbs (49 per cent), subdividing large lots into smaller lots (48 per cent), subdividing to develop battle-axe blocks (37 per cent) and building high-rise apartments (33 per cent).
Only five per cent of those resistant to density were aged 18-21. However, the majority of 65-74-year-olds surveyed were in favour of, or open to, medium-density development.
The report comes as housing density has landed back on the state agenda, with the State Government announcing a new medium-density policy at a recent Urban Development Institute of Australia WA industry event.
The policy is now open for public comment and was developed as part of the government’s Design WA initiative. The new planning policy applies to residential buildings up to four storeys high.
Four key elements of the policy are the importance of designing for the site, wind and sun, connecting the home with the garden, creating functional indoor and outdoor spaces and neighbourliness – how a dwelling responds to and fits within its surrounding area.
“There has been a lot of medium density delivered over many years,” Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said. “But more recently, many of these developments have contributed to a significant loss of tree canopy and homes with a design that does not contribute positively to the neighbourhood.
“People want to live close to services, jobs and good-quality transport links. They want the option to remain in the community they love when they downsize, or to buy their first home close to family and friends in a neighbourhood that is familiar.
“Design WA sets a consistent benchmark for design excellence across all local governments and ensures density is done well to provide a greater choice of housing diversity and create communities that will accommodate our growing and changing population.
“Good design is integral to our urban environment. I encourage people to review the proposed policy and engage in informed discussions about the benefits that low to medium density can deliver for local economies, housing affordability and sustainable urban growth.”
A copy of the policy, more information and details on how you can have your say are online at www.consultation.dplh.wa.gov.au.
Consultation is open until April 16, 2021.