Housing
November 21, 2017

Is the Need for More (Sydney) Housing Supply a "Myth"?

Lots of coverage of John Rose’s report on “The Housing Supply Myth” in Vancouver. Thomas Beyer sends along this article from the Sydney Morning Herald with obvious parallels.


Claims that simply increasing the number of homes in Sydney will fix the housing affordability crisis have been challenged by new modelling that shows boosting supply alone is unlikely to deliver affordable housing.
Analysis by Australian National University academics Ben Phillips and Cukkoo Joseph has identified a long-term oversupply of housing in many inner Sydney suburbs. Despite the surplus, property prices have surged in that region over the past five years.  ….
The ANU report concluded that while increasing housing supply has “some benefits” it is “unlikely in isolation to create affordable housing” in Australia. … The modelling showed the statistical region of “inner-Sydney”, which includes the central business district and surrounding suburbs, has accumulated a “significant surplus” of 5900 dwellings relative to population growth since 2001 – the largest over-supply among 328 regions across Australia included in the study. …

surplus – red / shortage -blue

A record 37,608 new houses were completed in Sydney during the year to March, Department of Planning figures show. That’s almost three times more new dwellings than the city added back in 2008 and 2009. …
“If, as this report suggests, housing in Australia is not in short supply, then we need to find alternative explanations for house-price growth – such explanations would direct policy in applying levers capable of affecting housing affordability,” the report said.
… the ANU report’s co-author, economist Ben Phillips, said often the behaviour of property prices at the regional level “has nothing to do” with underlying fundamentals for housing demand, including population growth.
“Housing is an asset and assets don’t always reflect the fundamental underlying value – it’s not like the demand for ice cream or bananas,” he said.
“Supply does matter, but there are lots of other things at play that can swamp that impact … that means improving affordability is not as straight forward as fast-tracking a bit of supply to solve the problem.” …
Overall, the Australian housing market was shown to have an oversupply of 164,000 dwellings between 2001 and 2017.
Ms Berejiklian made housing affordability a key priority for her government when she became Premier earlier this year and has stated “the most effective way” to tackle housing affordability is to increase supply.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed this approach. In May last year he said: “Now this is how you address housing affordability. Housing affordability is the result of there being insufficient supply of housing. You need to have more supply of housing.”

Read more »


From the Auburn News, a western-suburbs paper in Sydney, about a survey conducted by Guide Dogs Australia: “almost half of all people who use a white cane are walked into at least once every time they are out, with almost 60 percent of respondents reporting the instances were caused by people engrossed in their mobile devices.”

Read more »

A totally unscientific survey of mural trends in New South Wales: I didn’t see a single “pictorial” mural, like the almost-photographic assemblages of faces, animals and scenes that have become so common in Vancouver (many of them seemingly scaled-up, projected and painted from Photoshop images). Instead, abstract patterning seems to be the norm…

A lane in Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains about 100 km. west of Sydney



Two in trendy Newtown (Inner-West Sydney). The graffiti-like quality of the second one seems to invite additions – maybe this is the idea, that the art evolves organically and isn’t “owned” by anyone, which would fit with Newtown’s radical aesthetic.

Read more »


Many Sydneysiders appear to be using a phone app, Outware’s Snap-Send-Solve, to “dob in” their neighbours, mainly about parking infractions.
“Gone are the days when parking officers would simply walk the streets chalking cars,” said the story in the cheesy Daily Telegraph tabloid. “Now they are actively investigating leads using this new app, which has more than 100,000 users across the country.”
The Inner West is Hipsterville in Sydney.

Read more »

A reason to be in Sydney in October…

The cliff walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama, the first bay to the south, is dotted with sculpture each spring.

21st Anniversary Bondi Exhibition  |   19 October – 5 November 2017 Sculpture by the Sea returns to the Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach coastal walk as the world’s largest free to the public sculpture exhibition. See the spectacular coastal walk transformed into a 2km long sculpture park over three weeks featuring 
100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world.

The website has gems from past shows. Having seen several of them, I thought that this year’s set made less use of the spectactular venue – was less site-specific – than previous ones.  My favourites this year:

“Transporter” by Dale Miles

“Are We There Yet?” by Jane Gillings.
After spending 10 days in Sydney, I promise not to complain about Vancouver traffic congestion for at least a year ….

Read more »

Peter Berkeley reports in from Queensland.  From ABC News:

Winter in Australia this year was hot and dry with the average maximum temperature up nearly 2 degrees Celsius above the long-term trend.

Key points
  • Hottest winter since records began in 1910
  • Ninth driest winter on record
  • More high pressure systems prevented rain

The 2017 winter was the hottest since 1910 when national records began, according to Bureau of Meteorology figures released today. …

Nineteen of the last 20 winters have now had average maximum daily temperatures above the 1961 to 1990 average.
Andrew King, climate extremes research fellow from the University of Melbourne, uses a range of computer climate models created all over the world to tease out the different factors causing extreme weather events.
His analysis of the factors behind this winter’s record heat showed that the influence of climate change increased the likelihood of this winter’s record warmth by at least sixty-fold.
Dr King said a very clear human influence could be seen in Australia’s winter.

 

Read more »
Ian sends this in from The Conversation: .  . The release this week by the Greater Sydney Commission of city-wide draft plans mandating some measure of affordable housing in new developments is a step in the right direction. However, the target of 5-10% on rezoned land is too low to make a serious impact on the city’s affordable housing shortage. It must be more ambitious. …
Housing researchers and academic housing economists across Australia agree that an essential part of the policy mix is to mandate a significant percentage of affordable homes in all new housing developments. This is known as “inclusionary zoning”. Government is conflicted

Other global cities such as New York and London have recognised the important role of housing in their economies and have inclusionary zoning policies. Other states in Australia have also set affordable housing targets. These have not had harmful impacts on housing investment. …
The New South Wales government has been reluctant to set significant inclusionary zoning requirements for new developments in several important parts of the city. One possible reason is that the government itself stands to reap revenue from rezoning and/or redevelopment of government-owned land. …

What targets should be set?

We join those in the housing sector who believe that at least 15% of housing in new private developments should be affordable. On publicly owned land, at least 30% of new housing developments should be affordable.
Of course, the details of land zoning matter. If targets are set, we must ensure the definition of “affordable” actually achieves the goal of reducing housing stress for people on low and moderate incomes while maintaining housing quality.
Substantial inclusionary zoning requirements will not make development more expensive. They will make it harder for land speculators to make large profits while making no contribution to the social and economic future of New South Wales. It is high time the foxes in the henhouse were called to account.

Read more »

“The Sydney of 2026 will have crossed over that magical Australian barrier of the love affair with the motor vehicle,” offers David Pitchford, the chief executive of government property agency UrbanGrowth NSW.
“We will have moved away from everybody having three cars, and we will have moved into a situation like most European capitals, where people under 25 don’t even have a driver’s licence,” says Pitchford.
“And the reason for that is that they don’t need it. Their city is designed so well that they can get around and interconnect without it.”

This series of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald imagines the city in a decade, when its population will have climbed from the current 4.2 million to 5.5 million.
People who really know Sydney – not just the pretty harbour and the historic Inner West and Eastern Suburbs but the sprawling North Shore and the “Western Subs” baking on the Cumberland Plain – will question whether forms of personal mobility could ever be replaced by transit. Distances are great and the spaghetti of arterials connecting the suburbs are badly congested. Most of the investment since 2000 has been in tolled road infrastructure – an orbital freeway and some very long tunnels. The train system looks excellent on a map but is slow to use. And bicycles – such a great interest to many readers of this blog – are practically non-existent due to narrow roads and aggressive drivers.

Read more »

Ian: This could be written about the expansions to Vancouver’s transit also.
From The Conversation:

…who’ll profit from the value uplift that will flow from the massive investment of taxpayers’ funds, both from higher land values resulting from the new density and from being snug up against a new Metro line?
…as each day passes, developers are doing their maths based on the existing scenario set out by the Department of Planning. Soon it will be too late to retrofit any changes.
… what percentage of the 36,000 new apartments and other dwellings along the renewal corridor has been allocated for affordable housing? We can be sure they won’t be pitched at the pockets of those who live there now.
And as new investment comes in, so rents will rise. Without a significant affordable housing component, many of the essential workers who live there today – the mechanics, care attendants and shop workers – will be pushed further towards Sydney’s periphery. That will leave the rest of the city struggling to get the lower-paid workforce it needs to function productively.
In comparable renewal projects in cities like London and New York, a significant proportion of new stock is set aside as affordable housing, precisely to avoid such problems. It’s accepted as completely reasonable that lower-income working families should also benefit from new housing delivered as a result of public investment.
The Baird government must make it clear to developers exactly what proportion of the new homes will be set aside for this purpose – and quickly. The case for a zoning policy that mandates a proportion of all new homes as affordable has never been clearer.
The government also needs to show us where it is placing services, such as the new schools that the expanded population will need. With the government’s zoning map not identifying where these services will go, land-owners will rightly question any subsequent proposal for a school or park that would diminish their profits from possible residential development.

Read more »

From the South China Morning Post, via Colin Brander:

Sydney is imposing new taxes on foreigners buying homes as concerns grow that a flood of mostly Chinese investors is crowding out locals and killing the “Great Australian But as prices rise to record levels – Sydney is ranked only second to Hong Kong as major cities with the world’s least-affordable housing – new potential homeowners have been increasingly forced out of the market with foreigners blamed as a key factor.“The governments want to respond to a perception about housing affordability and the impact of foreign investment on that,” KPMG Australia’s indirect tax specialist Michelle Bennett said.
“(Politicians) are raising money from people who aren’t voting, so superficially you can understand that it’s possibly not bad politics,” she added, but warned the measures could be a “blunt instrument” that could hurt the market. …
“It is very bad. Without the Chinese nothing would ever get built,” the country’s richest man and head of prominent developer Meriton, “high-rise” Harry Triguboff told the Australian Financial Review last week.
“Never mind the bullshit stories, sales volumes have already dropped and prices are coming down steadily. The Chinese buyers are already disappearing.” Read more »