Perth August 2018

The month in review: Perth

By Herron Todd White
August 2018

Perth City experienced rapid growth throughout the late 1960s as a result of the commencement of iron ore mining in the Pilbara together with high interstate and overseas immigration. This led to unprecedented demand for housing and the expansion of urban corridors connecting Perth to the east and south-east associated with major industrial development and transportation routes at the time. The south-west corridor was emerging as a result of the creation of the Kwinana industrial area and the north-west corridor had not yet been created although there were some areas in the planning stages at the time. Although there was a peak in construction of residential flats and units during this period, the majority of residential construction comprised single level residences on larger lots and the outskirts of the Perth metropolitan area was generally 12 to 14 kilometres from the Perth GPO. According to a research paper completed by REIWA, the median house price in 1968 was $12,371.

Perth buyers have had a longstanding preference for owner-occupied, detached houses on larger lots with the use of private transport for access to activity centres, shopping centres and the Perth CBD. This preference has been significant in how the Perth metropolitan region has been planned and developed over the past 50 years.

Perth is currently ranked the fourth most populated capital city in Australia on a density per square kilometre basis however is one of the least populated developed cities in the world. As a result of population growth and lifestyle and housing preferences, Perth’s suburban expansion now extends circa 150 kilometres along the coast from Yanchep some 56 kilometres to the north and Dawesville some 90 kilometres to the south. In addition, the Perth metropolitan area has expanded significantly in the north-eastern and south-eastern corridors.

In August 2010, the West Australian Planning Commission released Directions 2031 and Beyond with the view to “creating a more compact and environmentally sustainable city by using land and infrastructure in an efficient manner”. Primary targets of the framework included:

  1. “A 50 per cent improvement on current infill residential development trends of 30 and 35 per cent; and a target of 47 per cent or 154,000 of the required 328,000 dwellings as infill development” and
  2. “A 50 per cent increase in the current average residential density 10 dwellings per gross urban zoned hectare”; and “has set a target of 15 dwellings per gross urban zoned hectare of land in new development areas”.

In response to the above, lot sizes in developing estates have continued to decrease in recent years with the Housing Industry Forecasting Group’s November 2017 publication stating the lowest ever recorded average lot size of 363 square metres. In addition, the WA Planning Commission issued a new draft position statement in March this year outlining its intentions for the minimum green title lot size to be reduced from 100 square metres to 80 square metres. Subsequent to this, Perth’s first micro lot housing project was announced in April for the northeastern suburb of Ellenbrook.

Residential apartment construction has also increased significantly throughout the Perth metropolitan area in recent years with infill development around transport hubs encouraged by the government. Despite this, the push for urban infill in some well-established residential areas is proving to be a major hurdle with residents citing fears such as smaller lot sizes, increased noise and crime, decreased privacy, parking problems and decreases in property values.

Well planned urban infill, housing affordability (particularly for first home buyers) and public infrastructure are at the forefront of the city’s challenges in 2018.

Town Planning Scheme and Design guidelines continue to play massive roles in the cost of housing at present. Bushfire Attack Level, front elevation design, NatHERS environmental ratings and noise proofing requirements are also adding significant costs to project housing and yet have very little value add in most scenarios.

Furthermore, increasing specifications in new houses are continuing to keep upward cost pressure on construction as the market is continuing to decline in the newly established outer suburbs throughout the Perth metropolitan area.

Decreasing lot sizes have brought fresh design challenges and many builders and developers are challenging the norm by constructing new dwellings in alternative building materials to the traditional double brick which is still far and away the preferred construction method in Perth.

The below picture is a good example of recent experimentation by building companies, comprising non-traditional, single-level, semi-detached townhouses built with Hebel external walls, Colorbond roofing and plasterboard internal walls.

Another new style that is being tested in some of the recently established estates is the industrial two storey designs on 200 to 300 square metre lots. The New York / Brooklyn themed construction seen in the below pictures brings something quite unique to these new estates and has been relatively well received.

Similarly, the flute design (pictured right) has been successful in the developing suburbs of Ellenbrook and Aveley offering affordable accommodation on a small lot.

Despite the numerous challenges and reluctance for urban infill in some well located suburbs, there are several large-scale medium to high density development projects in the pipeline including plans for a total of 5,000 medium to high density homes in Bentley, Joondalup, Beaconsfield and Cannington. Also currently being developed is the Murdoch Health and Knowledge Precinct which will include residential components. Expansions to several major shopping centres are also underway with the planning approval contingent on the inclusion of a residential apartment component.

In addition, the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (MRA), “the delivery arm of the State Government’s planning portfolio”, has recently completed or is in various stages of residential infill developments including the coastal suburb of Scarborough, where the beach foreshore has just received a circa $57 million re-vamp including a $26 million swimming pool, world class skate park and bowl together with extensive public open space areas. The MRA took full control of a large portion of the suburb and is responsible for ensuring that the area becomes a vibrant coastal tourist destination with the master plan for the area outlining four distinct precincts. The MRA recently approved the revised 3 Oceans twin tower development comprising twin 43 and 33 storey towers. This proposed development will definitely change the landscape of the entry to the Scarborough foreshore.

Another area the MRA is planning includes a riverside redevelopment project in East Perth which adjoins the banks of the Swan River comprising some 40 hectares of land. According to the MRA, “The area will feature a new inlet, urban beach, hotels and short stay accommodation, landscaped boardwalks, public art, walkways, cycle paths, a river playground, local shops and more”.

Despite Perth often being maligned as a backwards city (WA – Wait Awhile) when compared to its eastern states counterparts, much has changed in the past 50 years and particularly in the past ten years. In fact, the Perth CBD has undergone significant change over the past decade with recent projects completed including Northbridge Link and Elizabeth Quay. In addition, the recently completed Optus Stadium now provides a state of the art stadium suitable for international sporting and entertainment acts with a 60,000 seating capacity and is now linked to the Perth CBD via Matagarup Bridge.

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