By Ashleigh Ryan | 31 Aug 2023

Bill Gates is often quoted saying “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” When it comes to the national housing crisis, what can we achieve in 5 years?

Following a recent National Cabinet Meeting, the Federal Government has introduced a new higher target to deliver 1.2 million “well located” homes over 5 years from 1 July 2024.

As stated in the The Australian Financial Review, this requires 240,000 housing starts every year for five years, a pace the country has never achieved. Here in NSW we will be required to deliver 77,000 new homes each year. Last year, there were only 47,000 new homes completed in NSW.

This new housing will be delivered in new communities, but also significantly will be delivered throughout our existing neighbourhoods. The trending narrative from State Governments right across the country that we need to do more within our existing urban footprints.

Delivering at scale will require increasing density and incentivising site amalgamation around transport hubs, where institutional and large developers, plus student accommodation and Build-to-Rent operators and developers, will play a critical role.

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To meet this housing target in the next 5 years will clearly require a step change. Based on a business-as-usual approach though, delivering high density housing can easily take 7-10 years.

Urbis Apartment Essentials Data shows that the median timeframe from lodging a development application to completion for large apartment projects with more than 200 units is 4.9 years (based on projects completed in last 5 years in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth). In many cases this timeframe follows years of pre-planning at the rezoning or precinct planning stage.

Many high-density apartments recently completed have been located in precincts that were 10 years in the making.

If the plan is to rely on precincts around transport nodes to deliver the majority of our future housing supply within the next 5 years, we will need to rethink how we precinct plan within existing urban areas, or fast track those that are already in the planning pipeline (for e.g. the Parramatta Road Corridor in Sydney’s west), or both.

Recent changes to low density housing zones which restricted the delivery of infill housing opportunities should be reversed in NSW and code assessment expanded.

We also need to reduce barriers to the delivery of medium density housing, especially low rise typologies, that can be delivered more nimbly by smaller and medium scale developers and builders.

If the implementation of the National Planning Reform Blueprint is conducted at the same pace of planning reform we have seen over the past decade, it could easily take more than 5 years to see the type of changes we need to support substantial new housing delivery.

The National Planning Reform Blueprint is an important recommendation, but our Governments should be agile when implementing this reform, like they were during the COVID pandemic, in order to see outcomes on the ground within 5 years.

I am a goal oriented person right, so working towards an ambitious 5 year target is motivating. I truly hope the planning profession and the property industry get behind this challenge to deliver this part (not to the exclusion of other aspects of the affordability crisis) of the solution to the housing crisis

Ashleigh Ryan’s thoughts on this topic also feature in the Australian Financial Review.


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