2 Aug 2019

New research from Urbis highlights that medium density housing is seeing an increase in market share of Perth’s new housing.

However, questions remain on whether the format of the housing developed is in the region’s best interests.

According to Urbis’ Medium Density Housing research and analysis, the proportion of medium density dwellings in Perth has seen a significant increase over the last five years. In 2013, medium density units accounted for 16 per cent of first-time dwelling sales and this had increased to 23 per cent by 2018.

This trend is under-represented in ABS data due to a definition that does not work well for Perth. Under the ABS’ definition of a house, many medium density products, such as detached housing are wrongly categorised as houses. Urbis defines medium density units as strata-titled duplexes, triplexes, quadruplexes, villas and group housing.

“Urbis’ broader, local definition of medium dwellings highlighted that this housing type has had a much larger influence on the market than if the ABS figures are used,” explained Director at Urbis, David Cresp.

The data found that Perth’s middle suburbs accounted for over half (54 per cent) of all new medium density dwelling sales in Perth. Top suburbs for this sort of new dwelling included Morley, Balga, Nollamara and Scarborough. The research also showed that on average in 2018, medium density dwellings were priced at 79 per cent of single green-titled housing in the same areas, but that this generally ranged from 75 to 90 per cent.

There is a need to look at whether what we are producing is what we want for the future of Perth’s suburbs.

David Cresp View Profile

Middle ring suburbs also accounted for 52 per cent of 2018’s apartment building supply with fewer than 25 dwellings. Suburbs such as Innaloo, Rivervale, Midland and Scarborough were the top-ranking middle ring suburbs for this sort of supply.

Growth in market share in medium density has largely come from a decline in greenfield lands market share which has fallen from 51 per cent in 2014 to 39 per cent in 2018.

“Medium density housing is meeting a growing demand for more affordable housing in Perth’s middle ring areas. Our findings show there has been an increased focus on medium density housing in Perth. However, there is a need to look at whether what we are producing is what we want for the future of Perth’s suburbs,” Mr Cresp said.

Chris Melsom, Director at Urbis, said the research also found that medium density approvals show a proliferation of small-scale residential developments, such as duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes, often in regions which lack good access to public transport, infrastructure, amenity and employment. They are also often associated with a loss of trees and open space over large areas.

Key to successful medium density is fostering its development at sites that fit a broad spectrum of needs, offering lifestyle amenity, social and community links, jobs and transport.

Chris Melsom View Profile

“Key to successful medium density is fostering its development at sites that fit a broad spectrum of needs, offering lifestyle amenity, social and community links, jobs and transport. If you look at medium density in the eastern states there is a strong presence of large-scale quality townhouse-style developments with fantastic lifestyle amenity.”

“The ability to increase density without losing tree canopy, open space and safe streets is important to the design of residential environments across Perth,” said Mr Melsom.

“There is a great opportunity for the private and public sector to work together to create a strong plan for good quality medium density development in the right places in Perth.”

State Manager at James Hardie Building Products, Craig Oatway, notes that delivery of the right type of medium dense dwellings in the right places will also rely significantly on education and innovation in the sector.

“The construction and development sector need to unlock the methodology to successfully deliver these new built forms. In line with a strong planning framework, there needs to be early collaboration between private and public players to ensure the supply chain has the capability and capacity to flourish. This can make all the difference between successful long-term developments,” said Oatway.

We need a joint effort from the HIA, the UDIA planners and developers to develop a medium density code and provide better built form outcomes.

Ian Holloway, All Things Residential

Residential Industry Consultant at All Things Residential, Ian Holloway, strongly believes that a Code for medium density building is crucial to achieving the best performance and quality in the sector.

“At the moment, the R-codes are totally out dated and this results in ad hoc housing outcomes,” said Holloway.

“We need a joint effort from the HIA, the UDIA planners and developers to develop a medium density code and provide better built form outcomes. There are some simple fixes that would benefit the sector short-term, such as looking at the current apartment code and giving townhouses the same plot ratio instead of site cover. This would reduce the fall back to the group housing solution.”

In order to promote successful medium density in Perth, Urbis recommends the following strategies:

  • Pilot medium density projects to educate communities
  • Mandate minimum lot sizes and densities for infill to manage overpopulation
  • Education local governments on the benefits of medium density and provide a consistent policy
  • Develop lightweight materials for construction
  • Arrange parking alternatives for new residents
  • Improve project visualisations for local communities
  • Consider walkability and social benefit

To discuss any of the above or for more information, get in touch with our expert team. 

David Cresp View Profile
Chris Melsom View Profile