Planning reforms to deliver Perth’s missing density: Carey

Planning Minister John Carey promises upcoming government reforms will boost affordable housing supply.

Government, Government Relations, Property, Western Australia

Dan Wilkie 15 Sep 2023
3 mins
Minister Carey

Planning Minister John Carey says the State Government’s upcoming development approvals reforms will provide developers with the certainty needed to accelerate affordable housing supply.

Speaking at a Politics & Business event hosted by Business News, Mr Carey said there were two main factors influencing the development industry’s ability to alleviate the state’s housing crisis – soaring construction costs and opposition from some local governments and resident groups.

“Residential building costs have increased about 40 per cent since the pandemic,” Mr Carey said.

“There are estimates that around 50 per cent of density developments with approval are currently on hold.

“And recent Equifax data shows that the margins for residential builders have dropped to under 5 per cent this year.

“All of us should be concerned by this, but we also know that we are not alone. Every state is now facing the same challenge.”

But while the costs of construction are largely outside of the government’s control and are driven by external factors, Mr Carey said planning reform would help to address uncertainty over whether projects can proceed.

Earlier this year, the state government announced a suite of major reforms to the planning process, allowing developers pursuing projects of more than two homes and a value in excess of $2 million to bypass council approvals in favour of centralised panels.

An approvals process introduced during COVID to accelerate projects deemed to have state and regional significance was also made permanent.

Mr Carey said a second round of reforms would build on the state government’s efforts to ensure residential projects were viable and more affordable housing was delivered across the state.

“It is a very thin line between a viable and a non-viable density project and we know that a lack of certainty regarding the process and unnecessary delays can increase the cost of a project and ultimately kill it,” Mr Carey said.

“Our government’s openness is very clear in ensuring that we have the best planning policy settings in place to enable the acceleration of housing supply.

“In fact, I want Western Australia to have the best planning approval system in the country for housing supply. We can’t afford to sit back and say it’s enough or we are finished.”

Mr Carey said the reforms would also be designed to address challenges in delivering density in key areas across Perth, acknowledging that medium-density housing was a missing element of the city’s housing supply.

“We need to reframe how we define density outcomes,” he said.

“Almost nowhere else in the world, even in my own electorate, is medium density six storeys.

“For the record, this is low density. As a city, we are missing true medium density. It’s been nicknamed the Paris scale or the human scale, but whatever you want to call it, it’s around six to eight storeys and located near transport nodes, along corridors and near town centres.”

Redefining how residents view density, Mr Carey said, would be a key weapon in the state government’s efforts to address opposition to higher density housing.

“It can be a very normal reaction to oppose change in our lives and it is critical that we do show respect and engage genuinely with those concerned stakeholders,” he said.

“But there is also a disconnect between that concern and the living reality with what other people experience in other states and overseas.

“What we know about Western Australians is that when they travel overseas, they love density and all of the benefits it brings.

“Cities like Barcelona and Lisbon offer a fantastic street experience because density has been completely embraced and delivered.

“Density is critical for the future of Perth as a city. Density drives vibrancy, life and street activity, which helps create a sense of place for both locals and tourists alike.

“Density delivers foot traffic for small business. Density helps keep local schools, libraries and other community services and groups open and thriving.

“And density provides housing choice, it attracts younger people and families to ageing suburbs.

“But what’s also very clear to me is that we need to continue to fight hard to reframe the discussion around density.”

Dan Wilkie More from author

Dan is an accomplished journalist, editor and content creator with more than 12 years of experience in financial media.

In addition to holding several senior roles in the Business News editorial team, Dan was responsible for launching Australia China Business Review and was most recently editor-in-chief at Australian Property Investor.

Dan has a strong eye for detail and an exceptional ability to succinctly and accurately craft high-quality content tailored for a client’s needs across a wide range of industries.

Outside of work, Dan is an island enthusiast with a penchant for the South Pacific, and in the cooler months can often be found roaming the forests of Jarrahdale with his young family.

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