We are in deep need of more affordable housing located in well-serviced areas here in Victoria. Our population is growing at an unprecedented rate and there is no shying away from the complex housing affordability crisis that is worsening for our communities.
Victoria’s population will increase to over 10 million people by 2051. This means we require an extra 2.2 million dwellings to accommodate growth which is almost 55,000 new homes per year until 2051. These figures represent a definite need to maintain a long-term supply of housing – both to keep up with the growing population and to ensure home ownership is not simply reserved for the extremely privileged.
But increasing regulation is constraining the development industry from building the homes we need, and local politics is actively generating community angst around the idea of development. Furthermore, changing policies and processes are breeding uncertainty, resulting in a system that is failing current and future Victorians.
Right now, Victoria’s development community is trying very hard to respect and adapt to a series of recent policy decisions made by State Government that make the operating environment increasingly difficult. Our industry is trying to get on with the task of delivering a diverse mix of housing stock that will accommodate the growing population but there is only so much extra risk and uncertainty that can be absorbed, and the weight of population growth cannot bear solely on our shoulders.
In the major cities of Australia we see a real fear of density reiterated, fuelled and encouraged time and time again. What we all must understand is that with a population growing as ours is, density is inevitable, but if addressed appropriately it is not a bad thing. In fact, it can help ease our housing affordability and attainability issues across the state.
Now more than ever, the State Government must have the courage to stand strong; particularly against some of the inner-city councils such as the City of Yarra who are playing reckless games of populist politics. Our State Government must make responsible, educated decisions that will progress Melbourne’s future and help lower and middle class citizens live in well-serviced areas.
According to the Victorian Planning Authority’s most recent State of the State Report, the median dwelling price in the City of Yarra is more than $800,000, which is simply not attainable for most Victorians. The median dwelling price would be much higher, were it not for the emergence of apartment living in Melbourne’s inner-city.
If we want families, older people, professionals, students, singles, or anyone else who falls in the low to middle income status to be able to live in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, we simply must deliver more diverse housing.
Every municipality in Melbourne has a responsibility to give Victorians choice – the choice to live where they can buy from local businesses, the choice to be close to family, and the choice to walk, cycle or catch public transport to jobs and amenities.
The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) study provided startling findings this year on the future of housing affordability in Australia. The ability to own a home is rapidly decreasing for Australians, with less than half expected to own a home in their lifetime, and Victoria experiencing the biggest drop in home ownership across the country.
We are clearly in the midst of a housing affordability crisis and if we constrain supply through restrictive regulations in popular areas, this alarming trend will continue. To get out of this predicament, we need to build more homes and diverse properties to give people affordable options. Developers need to be supported in their efforts to accommodate the population, particularly in Victoria where numbers are booming.
The development community should be supported for its efforts to deliver a diverse mix of housing at lower price points, so that more people can enter the market and live where they want to live. Instead the industry is hurting, suffering and being sent conflicting messages that distract from what it should be focussed on – building the homes we need.
The fact is that housing affordability and population growth are two of the biggest issues facing our community here in Victoria.
We must act to ease price pressures and give people choice about how and where they want to live. Creating a diverse mix of homes right across the state is necessary to do this and it’s high time the government, every local council and the community accept that, and support developments that help people live where they want to live. Growth is happening, but we’re still waiting on courage.
Danni Addison is the Victorian chief executive of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA). UDIA is the leading industry association for the urban development industry, representing a wide range of organisations including development firms and builders, and members of the finance, planning, engineering, government and legal industries.