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Australia is getting bigger: more housing and better planning a key

Australia is experiencing a one-off migration spike in 2023-24, but migration will lead population growth over the next half decade, requiring many more dwellings. In an echo of the National Cabinet, the Business Council of Australia has called on Australia to reform its planning systems to ensure delivery of housing supply.

After the pandemic suppressed migration for three years, it was inevitable that international students, those holding entry visas and those with desire to be in Australia, would seek to take up their opportunity when global health allowed.

These may be temporary increases at this level, but with a shortfall of around 215,000 people compared to pre-pandemic estimates, the push will still be on to increase migration. We do not need to look far around the country to see why that is vital. Job vacancies and productive labour are in very short supply.

As the BCA points out in its ‘Housing Australia’s Talent’ report, one of the constraints to increasing migration is housing supply, and the constraints on housing supply include some big tickets areas requiring improvement.

Not least of these are supply bottlenecks, starting with releasing, preparing and delivering land for housing developments that are fit for the national purpose.

This includes – and it is a significant sub-theme of this housing review in Stats Count – an increase in appropriate medium density housing in established suburbs. Readers should be clear: the national policy mood is changing from an emphasis on the three bedroom, waterfall fronted brick veneer home on a stand alone block in 1950s suburbia, to a far more modern and somewhat more dense imagining. Long in the making, the swing in Australia’s housing stock has shifted.

Improved planning would – in the context supplied by the BCA – lead to likely and forecast population growth in particular areas being driven by productive need, supported by land availability and focussed on rezoning where necessary (to use established infrastructure) and incentivising low impact medium density developments.

Notably the Property Council of Australia also supported providing states incentives for sharpening up their approvals processes. Its Chief Executive Ken Morrison said:

“We need to incentivise the States and Territories to reform their planning systems so that we can ‘turbocharge’ supply and deliver practical solutions to the issue of housing affordability.”

The economic argument is very sound. Use established infrastructure to avoid added costs and time delays makes perfect sense. Especially so, when as the Urban Development Institute of Australia stated in its ‘State of the Land 2023’ report, this:

“…is a bellwether warning for Governments to act now to ensure housing supply is brought online, and affordability does not become even worse. We continue to see a national trend that highlights a steady decline in new housing supply since the peak in 2017.”

There seems to be something of a unity ticket on addressing housing supply and just as significant, a solid unity ticket on the role that streamlined planning and funding incentives where infrastructure is targeted to include housing.

Now everyone is on the same page, it should not be long until the problem is fixed, once and for all.

Posted Date: August 28, 2023

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