Built environment | Urban Planning | Cities

Ageing population and affordability changing housing

Demographic changes and affordability issues are affecting housing demand, LandCorp Chief Executive Officer, Frank Marra has told a CEDA audience.

"Currently there’s quite a mismatch between the housing stock that we have and the demographic nature of households today and forecasts show that that mismatch is only going to increase,” he said.

Referring to Perth, Mr Marra said developers are still producing large homes on the fringe for potential single person and couple only households which are the largest growing demographic.

Mr Marra also said the ageing population is changing housing demand.

“I think there’s some fundamental demographic changes but at the same time there are some affordability challenges that are also impacting housing demand,” he said.

Affordability is not just the up-front cost of a home, it is also the running and liveability costs, he said

“There’s not much point of being asset rich but lifestyle poor,” he said.

On the topic of lifestyle, Hassell Principal, Chris Melsom said the design stage is important when creating liveable high density housing.

Mr Melsom said it is about adding value to potential residents by giving them access to what they want daily – food, transport, ways of meeting people and an environment for leisure activities is critical.

“Those things need to be thought about and either provided in a large scale development or thought about as part of the context,” he said.

People’s requirements in housing are also changing, Mr Melsom said.

“We are seeing changes in the bio demands so less cars typically or less spaces for cars than might previously have been the case and more demand for things like storing bikes or communal facilities within buildings,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Queen’s University Canada, School of Urban and Regional Planning Professor and Director, Professor David Gordon said “density can be done well.”

Noting Battery Park in New York and Vancouver as examples, Professor Gordon said it is important to build amenities and vibrancy in a development area to give the public confidence in the benefits of high density housing.

While new buildings are being developed in Perth’s inner city, Professor Gordon said there is still five to 10 per cent more development occurring in outer suburbs.

“Perth is the lowest density major city I’ve ever seen,” he said.

In regards to the ageing population and creating higher density in existing suburban areas, Professor Gordon said developments don’t have to disturb communities.

Professor Gordon said there are opportunities in suburban areas to create different types of middle to high density housing especially to provide alternative options to the family home for Australia’s ageing population.

On the role of governments, Doric Group Chief Executive Officer, Vince Mulholland said it is up to them to ensure health, road and transport infrastructure is built to make new developments work. 

Mr Mulholland also said it is important for business, local and state governments to work together to identify areas for development and improve planning decisions.

“When you look at inner city development around the world, you’re really left with land that might not be the best land,” he said.

The challenges associated with this need to be planned for with industry and government working closely together.