Guest Article - What do we define as smart density?

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With 2,727 apartments completed in Perth in the past 12 months and a further 2,739 approved for development, the ratio of apartments, as part of Perth’s overall housing mix, continues to grow and will undoubtedly reach the infill target set by Government of 47%.

The new METRONET model and undoubtedly the substantial investment into infrastructure including Optus Stadium, Kings Square in Fremantle, Scarborough Beach and Murdoch Medical Precinct, to name a few, are also driving up the supply of apartments in these newly refurbished areas.

But the residents moving into these apartments are not just DINKS or baby boomers. Behind Sydney, Perth has the highest percentage of families living in apartments (7.5% State LGA Families in apartments as a % of total households).

So what does this all mean for the WA apartment market?

Recent research by the WA Apartment Advocacy (WAAA) found a number of interesting factors.

First of all, 60% of the owner occupiers indicated that they would like social activities in their development so that they got to know their neighbours. One participant in the initial campaign, Robert Summerton, spoke about living in his Canning Vale home for 20 years and barely knowing his neighbours. But after moving into his Burswood apartment he began to attend monthly functions, organised by the residents and he has fully embraced the apartment lifestyle – even though initially he was reticent.

53% of respondents would also buy a three bedroom apartment next time and this is essential to understanding the paradigm of downsizing. The only element that most buyers are downsizing is in fact the backyard. Whether a family or retiree (because both are now downsizing) these buyers still ultimately need space. Especially as 61% of respondents indicated that they were using part of their apartment as a study or home office.

Thirdly, 49% wanted an oceanside apartment and 44% riverside when they purchased next time. As a planning regime, WA has been focused on developing apartments near train stations and retail hubs and while that is an important aspect to apartment living (convenience) the coast has remained somewhat taboo. Besides Leighton, Scarborough and Alkimos there are no other apartments being built on what is 80km of beachfront. The reason why? We are too scared to venture where there will be opposition. But if you visit Manly and other coastal villages in the eastern states these are vibrant and self-sustaining communities that are highly sought after and treasured.

Looking forward, developers and government need to be conscious about good design, creating apartments in community hubs, generating a sense of community and treading into new areas where there is evident demand.

For so long apartments have been viewed as a negative housing choice – based primarily on the social housing created in the 1970s. But further ABS evidence demonstrates that where apartments are built, over time this draws an increase of professionals (East Perth is a prime example) and hence those with authority need to now recognise the new WA paradigm. For many, apartments are their first choice and they are looking for a lifestyle that matches. As such, it is now time for industry to deliver.

Samantha Reece, Director WA Apartment Advocacy (WAAA)


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