Co-ordinator of Academic Programs: Urban Research Centre, University of Western Sydney Australia is facing a new era of significant population growth. After experiencing reasonably low levels of population growth over most of the last ten years, much higher levels of international migration and increasing fertility rates has seen Australian population growth surge in recent years.
Up to the 12 months ending 31st December 2009, Australia’s population grew by 2.0 percent to 22,155,000 people. This was slightly lower than the 2.2% in the year to December 31st 2008 but still considerably higher than the figures recorded earlier in the decade. The surge in population growth is the result of an increase in the birth rate as well as a substantial increase in the rate of net overseas migration, which to the year ended December 31 2009 was about 280,000 persons. NSW had the largest population growth (119,500 people) of all Australian states and territories in 2008-09.· In 2008-09, nine of the ten fastest-growing Local Government Areas in New South Wales were in Sydney, including the adjacent LGAs of Canada Bay (4.7%) and Strathfield (3.4%) in the inner west, and Auburn (3.7%) in central western Sydney.
A large proportion of the growth in NSW was the result of net overseas migration (about 70%). An interesting feature of the demography of NSW is that more people left NSW to move to other States than moved from other States to live in NSW. This is in stark comparison to Queensland where an almost opposite pattern appears.
When you get down to the level of the metropolitan area, the NSW Department of Planning is predicting that this turnaround in population will also impact on Sydney’s future growth. Sydney’s population is now expected to be 5.7 million by 2031, and 6 million by 2036.
The South West Subregion is expected to experience the highest level of growth, with other high growth subregions being North West and West Central. This population growth will be the result of Sydney’s major growth areas located in these subregions. By 2036 almost half (49%) of Sydney’s population, or almost 3 million people, will call Western Sydney home, compared to 43% or 1.85 million people now.
Age changes in the age profile of the population will be felt most strongly from 2011, when the first ‘baby boomers’ (those born between 1946 and 1965) celebrate their 65th birthday and reach retirement age. This will have an impact on the way we need to design and plan our cities to make sure that they work for people of all ages.
This will be a particular issue for the design of housing which should be built to ensure that it is accessible for people of all ages. This will be a particular challenge for the strata sector – strata properties built for the 21st century will look different than our older strata stock. It is likely that lifts will become more common as well as much better designed apartments with wider doorways and better designed bathrooms.
There will also be a need to create a range of affordable dwellings. As housing costs continue to rise we run the risk of pricing essential workers out of the city boundaries. Key workers such as teachers, police, nurses etc are finding it increasingly difficult to able to afford to live in Sydney. A range of different strategies are needed to ensure that affordable alternatives are available for lower paid workers.
The Department of Planning in its current residential strategy plans for 30% of new housing to be in greenfield areas (mostly in the northwest and southwest growth areas) and 70% in existing areas. A large proportion of the stock in existing areas is likely to be strata stock. We have seen recently Hornsby and Canada Bay Council support plans for high rise development in their LGAs to try to concentrate development in particular parts of their LGAs. However it is clear that in order to meet these population and housing targets we will need to deliver considerable more housing development than has occurred in the last ten years in Sydney. One strategy discussed in the recent State Government discussion paper about revising the Metropolitan Strategy was the formation of a Metropolitan Development Authority.
It was suggested that Authority may have the power to compulsory acquire land in order to facilitate development in strategic locations such as land near railway stations and existing centres. If this Authority does eventuate than perhaps it may have the ability to compulsorily acquire existing strata properties in order to re-develop them at higher densities.
It is likely that a lot of growth in strata properties will occur close to railway stations and areas with good public transport access. These sorts of developments are sometimes called transport oriented developments (TODs) where development is encouraged where public transport access is good. The characteristics of TODs include:
• Access to a good public transport service; • a mix of residential, retail, commercial and community uses • high-quality public spaces and streets which are pedestrian and cyclist friendly • medium to high density development within 800 metres of a the public transport station • reduced rates of private car parking. Part of the reason that strata is likely to become more popular is the shrinking size of Australian households. The Australian Bureau of Statistics makes the following comments about their new household projections which were released in June 2010. (ABS 3236.0 – Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2031).
• Couple only families are projected to increase the most rapidly of all types of families over the next 25 years. If recent trends continue, couple only families will overtake the number of couple families with children, in either 2013 or 2014. This is mainly related to the ageing of the population, with baby boomers becoming ‘empty nesters’.
• T he number of Australians living alone is projected to have the most rapid increase of all household types, increasing by up to 91% over the next 25 years to 3.6 million by 2031. The rapid increase of people living alone is mainly related to the ageing of the population.
One of the challenges for maintaining the required levels of growth will be the obtaining planning approvals for strata properties with densities higher than the surrounding neighbourhood. We have seen that there are often neighbourhood concerns when development density increases in an area. There have been substantial changes in NSW in the planning system in recent years. As a result of reforms to the planning system, large developments are no longer approved by individual councils but instead are handled by a regional planning panels. This new system is only about twelve months old so it is difficult to tell whether it will improve outcomes for Sydney. The future is likely to see an increase in strata properties as Australian cities continue to grow and attempt to concentrate development in particular parts of their city. As this occurs we must all work hard to try to prevent the mistakes of the past. – See more at: http://www.stratavoice.com.au/blog/living/30-urban-growth-and-its-implicati/#sthash.4D8nCmke.dpuf