May 23, 2018
Source: Daily Telegraph
Author: Committee for Sydney Executive Chairman Michael Rose AM
23 March, 2018
MEDIUM density is crucial to rebalancing Sydney’s jobs and housing The Planning Minister’s decision to suspend the new ‘Low-Rise, Medium Density’ housing code is disappointing, because medium density terraces and town houses will be essential if we are to make our city more liveable and affordable.
Calls to “hit pause” on the policy because of congestion or fears about impact on local character are misguided, as abandoning this policy is likely to make things worse on both of those fronts. Dropping the policy would also create other negative side effects, such as reducing the supply of affordable housing.
There are good reasons why the medium density policy is a winner for Sydney residents. Our city is currently unbalanced. Most people live in the West but work in the East, spending hours a day on congested roads getting across town. The NSW Government is attempting to fix this problem, which is why the Greater Sydney Commission’s Region Plan and the Government’s Future Transport Strategy were both developed with a view to rebalancing Sydney through the creation of a “30-minute city”. The policy rationale is simple: bring jobs closer to where people work, and bring people’s houses closer to where their jobs are.
At the Committee for Sydney, we’ve been looking at this challenge for many years. Density is central to making sure that every community can access the things that matter to it because it is density that supports good local jobs and good community services. But crucially, this density must be done well.
Medium density will help in this goal. It will provide more housing choice for people who don’t want to live in an apartment, but also don’t need a large, stand-alone house. It will help improve affordability, while more houses close to public transport will mean fewer cars on our roads and less time spent commuting.
Density also brings vibrancy. It’s the reason you get that sought-after variety of restaurants, cafes and shops along our most interesting main streets. It’s the reason you get essential services such as doctors and childcare within walking distance, because the economics stacks up with density.
Sydneysiders intuitively know this. That is why Sydney’s higher density suburbs like Paddington, Surry Hills and Newtown are seen as desirable places to live and visit. These and other areas like them are vibrant and attractive precisely because they have a medium level of density that sits between the quarter acre block and the 20-storey tower. Simply put, medium density enhances the character of neighbourhoods.
Medium density housing also increases job density, with more jobs located closer to people’s homes. It’s no accident that Sydney’s highest job densities are located in and near Sydney’s higher and medium density suburbs, while sprawling suburbs on the city fringe suffer from extremely low job density rates.
The Committee for Sydney’s research on this topic has been unequivocal. Sydney will not fix its jobs imbalance without also fixing its imbalance in housing density. Opposing medium density won’t stop Sydney growing — but it will limit the number of options we have to deal with our growing pains. Without it, we only have two options: new houses will have to be built either on the outskirts of our city, or as high-rise, high-density apartments, which are well suited to locations near train stations and in our city centres — but not appropriate for most ‘middle ring’ suburbs in Sydney.
Without medium density, the very problems that people are concerned about today will get worse. Housing on our outskirts without an effective strategy for jobs in our West exacerbates the sprawl of Western Sydney, locking in congested roads and long commutes for the next 40 years.
The Government’s long term plan for Sydney is sensible and achievable and the Minister should support the sensible planning codes that underpin it.
He should reconsider his position.