When building cities, what is the most important element? It turns out, in global property advisor Savill's opinion, the answer to that questions it transport infrastructure.
According to Savills, Australian cities which provide the most efficient transport infrastructure, on top of essential social infrastructure, will place themselves in the best position to maintain liveability and deliver sound economic performance as they become the preferred home for the best and most skilled workers and the hi-tech industries that employ them over the next decade.
The outcome of solid transport infrastructure? Cities will be at the centre of property development and investment opportunities as they grow to accommodate vastly increased populations.
Savills’ Australian Head of Research Tony Crabb said many academic studies had pointed to the preference among skilled workers for ‘liveability’ over financial rewards including a recent Savills’ UK study - What Workers Want – which found workers wanted their life contained within a half hour radius.
"We expect skilled or knowledge workers to be doubly attracted to places where they can achieve both a high degree of liveability and financial rewards, but transport infrastructure is the critical element with work, rest and play accessible in 30 minutes by car, public transport, walking, or cycling, the key determinant," Mr Crabb said.
"It is little surprise therefore that skilled workers in the Millennial generation seek higher density, mixed-use, urban environments rather than rural or suburban ones.
"This appears to be at the core of liveability and as such is a theme to follow in assessing the most successful property investment opportunities," he said.
Three Australian cities among world’s top ten
While Melbourne and Sydney were likely to attract a growing number of skilled workers with population forecasts of up to 10 million by 2050, Mr Crabb said Adelaide and Perth were also nominated by the London based Economist Intelligence Unit, as among the world’s top ten most liveable.
"That is a great achievement for those cities but if they wish to maintain that status, transport infrastructure development needs to be front of mind.
"It needs to lead population growth rather than react to it but certainly governments need to be proactive," he said.
"In my experience, in cities of 10 million people, cars don’t work very well. Australian cities are very car-centric and need to develop better alternatives.
"Major transport infrastructure provides the backbone of investment opportunities and it is generally around such infrastructure that industries agglomerate, but light rail, tram, bus, cycling and street networks are equally important in delivering liveability.
"In an age where technology allows us to be virtually mobile at a global level, the quality of local neighbourhoods has rarely mattered more,’’ Mr Crabb said.
Mr Crabb said Australia’s ageing population and the boom in demand for childcare were also significant issues that governments needed to consider in terms of liveability and attracting skilled workers.
"Buildings including government offices, law courts, hospitals, schools and universities, and sporting and entertainment facilities provide the basic social infrastructure for growing communities and as such are magnets for population growth, but increasingly childcare and aged care are the 'must haves' for skilled workers and their extended families.
"As the population grows and ages, the provision and facilitation of these industries also presents further opportunities in the built environment for hospitals, respite care, aged care, retirement living, medical centres and allied health industries, which in turn provide anchors for other real estate,’’ Mr Crabb said.
He said while demand for childcare services would continue to grow with opportunities for investors and developers in both neighbourhood and near-workplace crèches, nursery schools and day care, hospitals may well be viewed as the new "mega-mall’’.
"Hospitals are a large piece of public infrastructure and generally do not close down. As demand for hospital services increases, the land around them becomes more valuable for ancillary services. Short-term stay accommodation, entertainment, retail, offices, consulting suites, services and parking are just some of the value-add opportunities on offer to investors,’’ Mr Crabb said.
He said in a globally competitive environment governments needed also to be aware of the need to cater to the requirements of an increasingly mobile skilled immigrant workforce.
"Skilled migrants have a choice of countries to which they may be attracted, and so hitherto attractive countries will face competition in the form of financial inducements such as free education and healthcare, low taxes, high wages and interesting jobs as well as lifestyle, safety, security and cleanliness.
"Given the diversity of attractive offerings from competitors, liveability for Australian cities needs also to factor in policy and development with a multicultural flavour."