Media Release
Rail boom offers solution to Sydney’s housing crisis
02 May, 2022

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Matt Levinson

Sydney’s rail infrastructure boom has the potential to address the city’s greatest challenge, delivering nearly half the housing needed over the next 20 years, according to a new report.

The Committee for Sydney’s new report Rethinking Station Precincts draws on land use, urban design and economic analysis by experts from AECOM, Frecklington Advisory, Grimshaw, Hassell, Mecone and SGS, showing how to deliver: 

  • up to 45% of Sydney’s future growth in walking distance of rail stations (327,000 dwellings)
  • up to $9.3bn economic benefits for NSW, by putting growth in locations that enhance productivity and leverage infrastructure
  • up to $16.3bn in overall value, through land appreciation and rezoning to support affordable housing and infrastructure.

Gabriel Metcalf, CEO, Committee for Sydney (report co-author):

“If we’re smart about it, we can fit almost half of Sydney’s population growth over the next 20 years within walking distance of rail stations. 

“The network of Sydney Metro and Sydney Trains is one of Sydney’s most important urban assets – growing to 338 stations when the current round of funded projects is complete.

“Making the most of the state’s extraordinary investment in rail will require significant reforms, involving governance, planning, land economics, urban design and placemaking.

“If we get it right, we can create amazing places that will stand the test of time, and become much loved Sydney neighbourhoods.”

Julian Frecklington, urban renewal expert with extensive experience in property and infrastructure (report co-author):

“We need to put growth where it makes sense.

“This means concentrating development around existing and planned infrastructure, and ensuring the right policy settings are in place.”

Tom Mackellar, Managing Director, Lendlease Development Australia:

“In our ever-growing cities, over station and precinct development are critical to meeting the demand for delivering integrated and sustainable urban communities.

“The whole of precinct approach is the right outcome.

“It’s about activating station development opportunities to generate more value that leaves a lasting legacy.

“We need to be bold and deliberate in our approach to creating vibrant neighbourhoods that strengthen our communities, attract investment and enhance liveability.”

Brett Draffen, Chief Investment Officer, Mirvac:

“We recognise the value of communities where people can live, work, shop and socialise within convenient, sustainable and well-designed precincts.

“Growth around train stations allows governments at all levels to partner with industry to maximse its substantial investment in critically enabling infrastructure, creating jobs and delivering more housing options to support our increasingly diverse population.”

William Walker, Executive GM Development and Head of NSW, Cbus Property:

“For decades, government has endeavoured to solve affordable housing issues by releasing land without thorough consideration for how it will integrate with existing and future public transport networks.

“Whilst we have come a long way in integrating public transport and land use planning, a coordinated approach between government and industry is required to ensure the best place and sustainability outcomes are achieved.”

Ken Maher AO, Chair, Hassell:

“Significant opportunities exist to provide new diverse and affordable housing focussed on Sydney’s emerging Metro and rail station network. However, it is critical that we ensure these hubs become the centres of walkable precincts, supporting public and community life, and delivering high levels of amenity and design quality.

“A number of models have been prepared demonstrating how principles and design strategies can ensure integrated outcomes that respect and enhance the character and liveability of the diverse places and neighbourhoods within our city. Achieving this will require new holistic ways of thinking about our governance, funding, planning, design and delivery of these places – beyond simple real estate transactions and more about sustainable, thriving community building.

“These models illustrate the importance of respecting the ecology and natural and built heritage, enhancing landscape and parkland networks, providing social and cultural infrastructure, ensuring connectivity, and allowing for a transition in intensity and scale from the centres to the surrounding precincts.”

Patrick Fensham, National Leader Strategy and Planning, SGS Economics and Planning:

“Investment in transport infrastructure and rezoning areas for more housing is not sufficient to achieve the aspirations for liveable high amenity station precincts.

“Along with detailed place planning, the land value gains need to be put to work through appropriate infrastructure charging mechanisms, and combined with complementary additional investment, to deliver world class public domain, open space, active local transport and other health and education community facilities.”

John Engeler, CEO, Shelter NSW: 

“This bold, innovative and visionary report includes key recommendations about how more affordable housing can be delivered in walking distance of key transport hubs. This will be of great benefit to the growing number of key workers on lower incomes who rent but currently have to travel long distances – often out of regular work hours – to their places of employment. These key or ‘essential-workers’ are the ones who kept us safe, fed and watered during Covid-19. They are the child care, retail, education and health care workers that are vital to the city’s ongoing success. 

“Providing more secure and affordable accommodation around existing, new and proposed stations will provide three way benefits – or the triple bottom line of better social, economic and environmental outcomes. The report highlights the need for early collaboration with the development industry to ensure awareness of the contributions schemes that would be required to deliver high quality projects, including more diverse dwelling types, including family-friendly apartments, that are both accessible and flexible. 

“Early notification of zoning changes, which would result in land value uplift, will ensure the right settings for a share of this private benefit to carry with it a responsibility to also deliver a public good – more quality affordable housing is an internationally understood example of how this ‘value capture’ can be seen by all.

“The acknowledgement of the opportunity to work with increasingly proven, mature and capable community housing providers to help build, own and operate the at least 5% dedicated affordable housing as part of the reimagined station precincts is also strongly supported. Indeed, Shelter NSW advocates that well designed, built and managed projects like these around keys stations are capable of supporting even greater targets, given the exemplar nature of the project, which really sets to recast Sydney as a city that is known for not how hard it is to live here, but rather how easy it is becoming. Providing accommodation where our key workers ‘don’t just survive, but thrive’ is what the Rethinking Stations Precinct could rightfully claim.”

Read the new report in full: Rethinking Station Precincts.