February 23, 2020

Australia: Crisis? What Housing Crisis?

Gord Price will be in Australia for the next month, Instagramming and podcasting his way across the country.  Follow his coverage here and on Instagram (gordonpriceyvr), as well as PriceTalks podcast when interviews are occasionally posted.

Evidence from the Sydney Morning Herald on how deeply unserious some decision-makers can be after they approve motions and plans to respond to a housing crisis.

Slowdown in pace of housing developments unevenly spread across Sydney

Amid concerns about the scale of development, the government’s latest forecast shows 5700 fewer homes are set to be built over the next five years than was predicted two years ago. …

New dwellings at Ryde are forecast to fall by 10 per cent to 8550 over the next five years, compared with that forecast two years ago. The pullback comes after campaigning by Liberal Minister Victor Dominello against the scale of development in his electorate.

“I’m not against development – I’m against over development,” he said.

“If you start multiple villas and multiple terraces in suburbia, where are they going to park on streets? …”

The forecasts show 10 times as many homes are expected to be built at Blacktown (lower socioeconomic-economic status) over the next five years than the northern beaches (higher).

The 1950 new dwellings predicted for the northern beaches represent a 26 per cent fall on the government’s target for the area in 2017. In contrast, Liverpool in the south-west is forecast to have 12,750 dwellings built over the next five years, a 72 per cent rise on that predicted two years ago. …

Bill Randolph, the director of the University of NSW’s City Futures, said the change in forecasts for new homes likely reflected a slowdown in the apartment market, adding that it would still be a “big ask” to deliver about 41,000 dwellings annually in Sydney over the next five years.

Professor Randolph said a reduction in large industrial sites meant it would become harder to develop high-density areas in inner and middle suburbs of Sydney.

“It’s getting harder now to win the local political battle in getting urban renewal through now that we are running out of the big old industrial sites,” he said.



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  1. In July of 2014, I spoke in Sydney at a national meeting of Australia’s Housing Industry Association. The main theme of the meeting was the severe housing shortage and the looming housing crisis. Everyone —national, state and local politicians, senior journalists, developers and those who finance them— were apprehended with the housing shortage, with conditions in both Sydney and Melbourne at the time not dissimilar to conditions in Metro Vancouver and Toronto then. Ironically, no one here in our part of the world was speaking as dramatically about a housing shortage then and they still aren’t. We won’t even acknowledge that housing supply is a key factor in housing costs.

    At the conference, Lucy Turnbull, who was the former Lord Mayor of Sydney (her husband became Australian Prime Minister a year later), sought me out to have a conversation about our regional government system that she had heard about. She told me she had studied Metro Vancouver as a model. The Greater Sydney Commission didn’t exist then. She was influential in its establishment and serves now as their first Chief Commissioner. She was very curious about the regional growth strategy that Metro Vancouver had adopted a couple of years earlier. She asked me how the regional context statements that municipalities must file with Metro are enforced. I thought she was talking about how we dealt with municipalities not following the land use designations and allowing growth where they hadn’t planned for it. No, she was interested in how the regional government ensured municipalities met their growth targets and what would be the consequences of not providing the growth that they had predicted in their plans. I told her the confederation style governance of our regional governments, with the rarely used dispute settlement provisions of the Local Government ACT, really don’t grant the regional government any effective power to enforce growth targets. She told me that she was advocating for a new regional government body that she hoped would have such authority and predicted that, if such a body wasn’t soon to be in place, the NSW State government would be moving to exercise more control in local government planning decisions— something she wasn’t fond of.

    It’s interesting that members of the national government are influencing decisions that are preventing the housing shortage from being addressed.

    1. Don’t you read the Sun? The “housing crisis” is all the Chinese’s fault, laundering their fentanyl proceeds through condo towers in Sydney, Vancouver, and Auckland. Now that foreign buyers taxes have taken care of that vexing problem utterly and completely, the only crisis that exists in housing is a bunch of ‘smart growth’ socialists insisting on building too much of it where it doesn’t belong – which is anywhere else.

  2. Gordon, it’s good to read your reports. Keep it up. It’s important that folks in this area are aware of what’s occurring in the other high demand metropolises across the Pacific. While we’re aware that the overall housing supply problems leading to ever-higher consumer costs – for purchase or for rent – have their greatest impact on the neediest. The majority of the population, including the politicians that represent them at the local level seem loathe to do very much about the recurring and relentless issues.