In Australia, residential density has historically occurred in waves outwards from the CBD along key infrastructure routes. It is the point at which development economics supports higher density living that is key to understanding the rate of progress of the wave through inner and middle suburbs of our capital cities.
This article explores the proportion of residents living in apartments in the different ring suburbs around the capital cities.
More development in Sydney
Looking at the following graphic, it is no surprise that Sydney is and has always been denser than other Australian cities. This is partly due to history, partly due to the larger population, and partly due to the topography – it’s hard to find large swathes of land.
In Sydney, the train lines continue to be a magnet for apartment development, further and further from the city. A generation ago, it was the North Shore line that was most sought after. Chatswood (above), Lindfield, Gordon and others on the line now have extensive apartment options.
Melbourne is following suit
Now, in the 2010s, this pattern is repeating in Melbourne and slowly in Brisbane. It’s not just the inner suburbs around Port Philip and Docklands that have seen a boom in higher density living. The wave is also increasingly apparent in Kingston, Monash and Dandenong.
These suburbs further from the CBD, are showing signs of increased apartment living, the most prominent locations are those on train lines and close to existing amenity and activity centres. The Dandenong rail line is showing strong growth in apartments for the full 35km to Dandenong. The Frankston line suburbs of Parkdale and Mordialloc are attracting higher density, and this is extending in both directions. The northern and western rail and tram lines are also showing this pattern.
Perth and Brisbane are showing signs of increased activity outside of the traditional inner suburbs and perhaps the experience of Sydney and Melbourne provide useful indicators as to future prospects for increased apartment living in middle suburbs of these cities.
What’s behind this trend?
There are of course a number of overlapping drivers of these trends in density from planning policy to cultural and social trends, yet the pace of demographic change remains one of the key enablers of higher density development.
The key demographic driver is of course changing household structures. As the average household size diminishes it shows a greater proportion of households are physically capable of living in smaller dwelling types. Added to this are cultural shifts, in part influenced by migration trends with these new migrants often having a greater acceptance and propensity to live in apartments.
This article first appeared in the Urbis Think Tank. Urbis is an interdisciplinary consulting firm offering services in planning, design, property, social planning, economics and research. Working with clients on integrated or standalone assignments, Urbis provides the social research, analysis and advice upon which major social, commercial and environmental decisions are made. With over 300 staff Urbis is uniquely positioned to handle projects from the simplest to the most complex.