Partnerships between local government authorities and private property developers are an important part of the solution to a housing affordability crisis in Perth, a leading architecture firm says.
Gustavo Thiermann, a director of multi-disciplinary design house HBO+EMTB, says public-private cooperation is the key to providing affordable housing for an ever-increasing number of households and families.
“We’ve had great success at transforming buildings and sites into modern, medium-density, high-amenity housing incorporating a mixture of layouts that satisfy the needs of both singles and families,” Thiermann says. “These projects have proven to be both functional and flexible while ensuring that the changing needs of residents are met for many years to come.”
A lack of affordable housing has become a significant issue in Perth in recent times, thanks primarily to low levels of home building but also because of demand resulting from the mining boom.
Even as overall affordability levels across Australia improved by 6.4 per cent during the March quarter, according to the latest HIA-Commonwealth Bank Housing Affordability Index, affordability in Perth dropped by one per cent on the back of a small decline in earnings and a 2.5 per cent increase in house prices.
Thiermann cites the award-winning Lilyfield redevelopment public housing project, for which he played an integral role in the design, as an example of what successful collaboration between local government and property developers can achieve.
That project, which involved the demolition of 40-low rise residential dwellings and the construction of a contemporary 88-dwelling multi-unit housing facility, ticked all the sustainability boxes, with low energy and water consumption and low greenhouse gas emissions, Thiermann says. He also says the development promotes a strong sense of community and encourages an active lifestyle.
“Our challenge is to convince local government to allow greater densities that we can demonstrate will have no detrimental effect on the surrounding neighbourhood,” Thiermann says. “Consultation with the community is essential, and in the case of Lilyfield, they were quite happy to accept something like this.”
Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi agrees, noting she was keen to generate a greater mix and diversity of housing stock in the Perth CBD, especially by encouraging single young, first-time buyers into considering smaller apartments.
“Why not go for the one-bedroom?” Scaffidi asks. “You’re going out to pubs and clubs and restaurants most of the week, you’re working long hours and probably visiting your families on the weekend, so actually a one-bedroom would be a really good way to enter the real estate market.”
Notwithstanding the aforementioned issues surrounding housing affordability in Perth, some commentators have warned that higher-density housing has its drawbacks.
In a recent speech in Sydney, for example, Adam Tomison, the director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, warned that increasing levels of housing density in Australian cities may be leading to higher levels of minor crime than would otherwise be the case as more people were packed into the same space.