July 13, 2015
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Rachel Browne
The State Government should unlock the land above and around train stations to ease Sydney’s affordable housing shortage, according to a proposal by influential lobby group, the Committee for Sydney.
Committee for Sydney chairwoman Lucy Turnbull has written to Premier Mike Baird and the relevant ministers asking them to consider the development strategy, based on a similar plan underway in London.
Committee for Sydney chief executive Tim Williams said government-owned land above and adjacent to train stations was not being used to its full potential.
“Somewhere in that land bank is a real opportunity to make a contribution to affordable housing if the relevant government departments and developers can take a co-ordinated approach,” he said.
London developers are building a mix of social, affordable and private dwellings above Tube stations at 50 sites around the English capital.
Dr Williams said similar development in Sydney has been overlooked with the exception of residential and commercial buildings at Chatswood, St Leonards, Edgecliff and Kogarah.
The cost of building over existing train stations was raised as a potential barrier to development in a 2012 parliamentary inquiry into the idea, which won broad support from organisations such as the City of Sydney and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia at the time.
Dr Williams questioned the expense of development, saying that it had been successful in cities such as Hong Hong where developer MTR makes more money out of property development than running trains.
“If this can be perfectly feasible in Hong Kong and London, why is it not feasible in Sydney?” he said. “It is possible throughout the world, so please don’t tell me it’s not possible in Sydney.”
As well as providing affordable housing for key workers on average incomes such as teachers, nurses and police, the proposal would reduce the number of cars on the road.
“It’s about imaginative use of public land, it’s about co-ordination, it’s about looking at solutions for affordable housing and reducing traffic congestion,” Dr Williams said.
The Committee for Sydney, whose membership includes a number of large property developers as well as community housing providers, has suggested the eight new stations being built for the Sydney Metro Northwest, formerly the North West Rail Link, as “obvious candidates” for the housing model.
A spokeswoman for Transport for NSW said pockets of land around the new rail line had been earmarked for housing development which would be guided by local planning controls.
Read the article online here.