South West WA August 2018

The month in review: South West WA

By Herron Todd White
August 2018

Given that Herron Todd White is now 50, it is worth looking back to what was happening in the South West of WA back in 1968. Back then the major town in the south-west was Bunbury due to the harbour which provided the main export option in the region for timber and farming production. The other main coastal towns including Busselton and Augusta were mainly holiday towns or retirement locations as well as supporting rural endeavours in the locality. Inland country towns such as Pemberton, Manjimup, Donnybrook and Bridgetown supported the timber, horticulture, dairy and food production industries in their various locations. Populations of these towns were generally very small and the residential accommodation generally basic comprising Californian bungalows and timber framed asbestos and weatherboard clad basic homes. It would be several years before the establishment of the Margaret River wine region.

Jumping ahead 50 years and these towns have undergone significant development and renewal. Bunbury developed into a city and still remains as a focal hub due to the harbour which is now in the process of being expanded. The city itself has undergone significant gentrification with modern housing along the foreshore and the conversion of the silos in Koombana Bay into luxury residential accommodation. The greater Bunbury region has expanded significantly and now includes several new residential subdivisions in Eaton, Australind to the north, Glen Iris and College Grove to the east and Dalyellup to the south.

The establishment and international success of the Margaret River wine region has seen a much greater focus on rural lifestyle living with towns such as Margaret River and Cowaramup seeing significant growth. The greater Busselton region has also expanded with new residential developments in Port Geographe to the east, Yalyalup to the southeast and Vasse to the south-west as well as the development of residential suburbs directly south of the Bussell Highway such as Broadwater, West Busselton and Abbey.

Similar to other areas in Australia, the demand for coastal living has seen an explosion of development of coastal towns such as Dunsborough, Yallingup, Prevelly and Gnarabup which have become major tourist towns and comprise substantial luxury holiday homes, many with expansive ocean views. There are several luxury home builders in the south-west region catering for this end of the market.

The style of housing has also changed significantly over this 50 year period and is now predominantly project style 3- and 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom single level homes on 500 to 700 square metre lots.

As with most areas, affordability is a serious issue across the south-west. There has been minimal unit developments leading to a lack of supply of affordable housing in most regions. This has prompted developers in the region to begin creating cottage blocks of 200 to 300 square metre sites which are appealing to both first home buyers due to their affordability and to retirees due to the ability to lock and leave with minimal garden maintenance required.

One local builder has also stepped into this section of the market with a cottage block development that is completed in ten weeks and provides for innovative New York style apartment living on a small freehold lot at an affordable cost. Only a few of these have been developed so far but it will be interesting to see the level of demand for this product.

Planners are also addressing decentralisation issues by creating higher residential density codes in the CBD areas. An example of this is the recent rezoning of sections of the Dunsborough CBD.

The future is likely to see our towns continue to expand outwards, however infrastructure restraints are likely to also see infill programs developed in the CBD areas.

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