Disagreement over the future of high-rise apartments in inner Sydney City has been fuelled by claims Sydney is suffering from a severe housing shortfall.
The Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW (UDIA NSW) has revealed the Sydney metropolitan area suffered a housing shortfall of almost 33,000 homes between 2009 and 2011, and that the City of Sydney was among the hardest hit local government areas.
CEO of UDIA NSW, Stephen Albin said: “In the three years to 2011, demand for housing greatly outstripped supply.
“This has been very sharply felt within the City of Sydney, driving up rents and mortgages.”
Mr Albin said it was time for “a radical planning overhaul,” and proposed more high-rise residential development as part of the solution.
“We need to look at increasing residential densities in inner Sydney,” he said. “If you increase the housing stock, you relieve the pressure … the City of Sydney can grow upwards but not outwards.”
His comments came with the caveat higher densities must be supported by adequate infrastructure. Strategic planning and an efficient development application (DA) process was also integral to addressing the shortfall, he said.
Geoff Turnbull, spokesperson for REDwatch, which monitors development in Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo, expressed reservations.
Mr Turnbull said: “It’s all very well to say inner-city neighbourhoods are close to the CBD and well-served by transport so let’s throw high rise apartment blocks next to railway stations. But in reality, the infrastructure is inadequate.
“For example, trains running through Erskineville Station are operating at something like 150 per cent capacity,” he said.
“Inner-city schools and hospitals have been closed by successive State Governments looking to save a buck. These would have to be put back in.”
Mr Turnbull did not express confidence in the State Government’s ability to provide necessary infrastructure.
“Residents have been campaigning for disabled access at Redfern Station since the early ‘90s. It doesn’t inspire confidence in Governments’ ability to provide infrastructure for higher densities if they can’t even manage to put lifts into one of Sydney’s main train stations,” he said.
City of Sydney Greens Councillor, Chris Harris flatly rejected the notion that more high-rise apartments were needed and cast doubt on the UDIA NSW claims of a housing shortfall.
“The City of Sydney is already meeting it’s targets for new housing under the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy devised by the last State Government,” said Mr Harris.
“The idea of a housing shortfall is a smokescreen devised by developers and their lobby groups to justify increased development. If there was a housing shortfall, home prices would be rising but they are actually falling.”
However, Liberal Councillor Shayne Mallard agreed with the UDIA NSW, adding the City of Sydney had a part to play in combating urban sprawl.
Mr Mallard said: “Clearly, there is a housing shortfall because prices are through the roof. “We need more affordable housing and the best way to do that is to increase the housing stock, which requires increased density. Apart from financial considerations, it’s environmentally irresponsible to allow Sydney to keep sprawling towards Goulburn and Canberra.”
Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP took a ‘middle way’ approach to the issue, agreeing that higher residential densities were needed within the City, but accommodated in several specific areas.
“Sydney will need to accommodate one million extra people by 2036. This kind of growth will mean at least 61,000 new homes will have to be created in the City of Sydney,” said Ms Moore.
“The City’s approach is to protect the character of existing residential and heritage areas by focusing balanced and responsible development in renewal areas such as Green Square, Harold Park and the Ashmore Estate.”
The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure was unable to provide comment before deadline.