Perth's infill targets not being met

Failure to meet infill housing targets will result in housing supply problems or greater urban sprawl.

Just two of Perth’s 32 local governments have met targets for increasing the amount of infill housing in their areas — something the State Government flagged five years ago as vital as WA’s population increased.

It’s a failure that could mean the city faces looming housing supply problems or greater urban sprawl in order to house a million additional residents.

The recent plunge in petrol prices could mean drivers have more cash in their pocket, making the drive to outer suburbs more affordable.

Yet easy-to-develop options on the outskirts of the city area also becoming rarer, pushing up the price of technically challenging land.

They are some of diverse factors impacting on the progress of Directions 2031, a citywide policy designed to future-proof Perth and enable the city to house an estimated population of 3.5 million.

The Directions 2031 policy was released in 2010, with local governments given targets for infill development. The goal was to build 154,000 of the 328,000 new homes the government believes will be needed by 2031 in already-developed areas rather than greenfield sites.

Each area has a different target: The city of Bayswater’s target for 2015 is 2790 additional homes above 2010 figures. Stirling’s is an extra 10,000 homes and the town of Peppermint Grove — home to Perth’s wealthiest families — has a target of just an additional 90.

But as a report card released in December shows, by the end of 2012 just Claremont (needing 250 additional homes) and Kwinana (129) had achieved 50% of their target at the halfway point towards the 2015 deadline.

And some areas — including Mundaring, Subiaco, Melville and Cambridge — had barely achieved 10% of the increase needed.

Other urban development measures are also lagging. Directions 2031 set the goal of having 15 dwellings on average per hectare in new areas — and that’s now the case in the centre of Perth. But strategic centres like Fremantle, Stirling and Cannington have fewer than six homes per hectare and areas such as Booragoon, Leederville and Belmont have fewer than four.

At the same time, WA’s population growth continues to exceed forecasts and remains Australia’s fastest, while the fall in oil prices has reduced the pressure on home buyers to live close to the city.

The API’s annual Residential Property Outlook breakfast looked at the impact of these and other drivers on progress towards the Directions 2031 targets, designed to prepare Perth for a population of 3.5 million people. For more information, see the event review in the February edition of the Australia and New Zealand Property Journal.