Senior lecturer in city planning at the University of NSW
I’m all for looking at high density as an option. I’m a little bit worried about this expectation that if we’re building high density around train stations, there’s no way to get it wrong, and it’s intrinsically going to work, which is not the case. This fetish around density is missing the point; we really need to be talking about amenity. It’s not so much that we’re going from low density to high density, it’s that we’re potentially going from high amenity to low amenity. The issue with some unsuccessful high-density neighbourhoods is they really lack amenity. We don’t want to be in constant shadow because of the tall buildings, we don’t want wind tunnels, we don’t want to be looking into our neighbours’ lounge rooms because we’re cheek-by-jowl. These aren’t necessary outcomes of high density, but if it’s poorly planned, and it’s not well implemented, then you’re going to have low amenity. Similarly, it’s a question of infrastructure and the capacity for these neighbourhoods to keep squeezing in more people. You’re going to need to start building in some services and amenity. The idea that this is a quick solution is also probably a bit of a folly.
Senior lecturer in urbanism at the University of Sydney
The bulk of this is already happening in and around transport nodes because that’s what the planning system has required for a long time now, so this [proposal] is all smoke and mirrors in some ways. There is a lot of zoned capacity that has yet to be built. This assumption that the planning system rules are prohibiting more supply coming online now is a kind of fallacy. The reason it’s not being built is we’ve seen approvals drop off. Developers are having trouble selling; there’s a lot of uncertainty around materials costs due to inflationary pressures and various global events that are impacting different parts of their business; and they don’t want to operate in a risky environment. So they just wait. The key problem is how it’s going to be delivered. The biggest mistake they made down the Sydenham to Bankstown corridor a decade ago was to upzone and walk away. That’s a highly problematic approach, especially in parts of the city with existing communities. They need to be thinking through how are sites going to be assembled? How are we going to do this equitably? How are we not going to drive displacement? Then you can consider what type of housing and how much you might put in.
Strategic planner, Planning Institute of Australia (NSW) president
Density done well is a great thing, [but we need] to have the bigger picture conversation around the other reforms that need to go hand in hand with it. It’s super important that density be delivered with access to quality public open spaces, good walkability, public transport, connectivity, and a mix of housing types from small apartments to large apartments. Transit-oriented development is a winning concept. People can walk down from their apartment, onto the street, jump on public transport and get to their place of employment in a short period. There also needs to be a conversation with local communities. The government needs to be able to sell the concept of density, and local councils are really good at taking their communities on the journey. When it’s explained well, people get it. They’ll say, “I want my grown kids to be able to afford an apartment too, and I recognise this has to happen somewhere, so where’s the best location for my locality?”
Research fellow in the School of Social Sciences, Macquarie University
It’s a fairly modest proposal that more or less replicates what successive state governments have been doing in upzoning around select sites near mass transit. It’s planning transit-oriented development 101, in a sense. I would have concerns, particularly in areas around Bankstown and to an extent Burwood North, about the effect this might have on the displacement of low-income renters. If there’s going to be a lot of development activity, there’s likely to be an uptick in evictions of people being moved out of homes that are going to be demolished and redeveloped. So I think there’s a gentrification concern. Some of the rhetoric from the state government is about getting councils out of the way, or pushing them to be more permissive, but there’s still an important role within local government for ensuring there are good planning outcomes. There’s a collective amnesia in the housing supply debate about all the [defects] that arose from the building boom in the 2010s. Ensuring the homes that are built are of decent quality and structurally sound is really important, and that’s part of what the planning process does.
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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/what-the-experts-think-of-squeezing-thousands-more-homes-into-sydney-20231103-p5ehcm.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw Housing crisis: