OPINION: I lived in Brisbane between 2006 and 2012. The city made a number of planning changes in the early 2010s that saw mid-rise and high-rise apartment buildings widespread in the southern part of the city center. , which includes West End, Highgate Hill and South Brisbane. .
I didn’t follow the details closely at the time, but the apartment building boom was very visible when I visited in 2016 and again in 2019. Cranes filled the sky and towers with great height – a true high-rise construction, unlike the townhouses and mid-density apartments often labeled as such in New Zealand – soared on the old Queenslanders (the equivalent of the Auckland villa).
As the City of Auckland contemplates more modest changes through the National Urban Development Policy Statement and the Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters Bill, it may be useful to look to other comparable cities to examine the impact of zoning changes on housing supply. and house prices.
South Brisbane is an interesting overszoning test case and could demonstrate what may be to come for Auckland (and other prominent cities) in the wake of the NPS-UD and the RMA Amendment Bill.
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* Medium-density residential standards are a tangible step towards the decolonization of housing
* Life in a “vertical district” – housing coveted by young buyers
* What role should municipalities play in responding to the housing crisis?
So what has changed to make this large scale apartment building happen? In 2005, the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2005-2026 (the first statutory regional plan for South East Queensland) stressed the need to increase density in Brisbane.
the Brisbane City Map 2014 (the equivalent of Auckland’s Unit Plan) followed and saw the overzoning of a number of previously low density historic downtown areas. The plan was supported by a series of neighborhood plans, the first of which were adopted in 2011.
the South Brisbane Riverside neighborhood map, which included West End and South Brisbane, entered into force in April 2011. The consultation on the urban renewal strategy for the area began in 2009. The renewal strategy has allowed the development of up to 12 to 15 floors in identified areas and by lot size (> 1800 square meters, 2500 m² or 10,000 m² to encourage large multi-building and up to 30 storey apartment projects in parts of South Brisbane.
Renewal efforts have been focused on the remaining industrial areas near the river, such as Montague Street, with character residential areas around Vulture Street largely retained.
The renewal plan met strong opposition from the community, with a “Save West End” group formed to mobilize community action. Posters were put up in the neighborhood, with slogans such as “West End Many Stories Not 30 Storeys”. Although the group is now gone, community opposition to high-rise development in the south of Brisbane-West End continues. As late as 2021, a 32-story tower proposal in South Brisbane was reduced to 20 stories in response to community opposition.
A decade later, and most or most of the large-scale developments enabled by the neighborhood plan have been completed (although some at lower densities than expected in response to community opposition), and the intensification envisioned by the plan has, for the most part, occurred.
A more in-depth review of consent data (Australian Bureau of Statistics Building Approvals by SA2 and above and Building Approvals by SA2 and above, July 2011 to June 2016) for suburbs within the South Brisbane Riverside neighborhood map shows that there was a spike in building permit approvals for dwellings other than houses (including medium and high density developments) in 2015-2016, which then leveled off.
The changing fabric of West End / South Brisbane is part of a larger trend away from isolated single family homes and towards higher density urban environments, with overzoning resulting in more housing choice and increased proportion of medium and high density housing in downtown high amenity areas.
Has housing become more affordable thanks to overzoning? Yes and no. Brisbane, like most other cities in Australasia, struggles with housing affordability, with house prices rising at an unprecedented rate in the past 12 months, increasing 22.3% from October 2020 to October 2021. Yet Brisbane is still much cheaper than others. Australian cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne (and Auckland).
In Brisbane, the cost of single-family homes has increased much faster than the cost of apartments, largely due to the boom in downtown apartment construction in 2017/18, and the median value of one unit was $ 415,536 in June 2021, compared to $ 657,551 for self-contained housing. Research has shown that the increase in the number of apartments in city centers, including Brisbane, has led to an increase in rental stock, which in turn has resulted in lower rental prices.
So what are the lessons? Overzoning will lead to an increase in the housing stock and a greater choice of housing. Managed well, it will result in compact and better quality urban environments. This may not lead to an increase in overall housing affordability – it depends on a wide range of demand and supply factors – but will likely lead to an increase in rent affordability.
It will face opposition from the community – it is important that the community is taken on the journey, but also that these provisions are not allowed to be watered down considerably in the process.
– Jade Kake is an architectural designer, writer and housing advocate based in Whangārei. Of Maori and Dutch origin, his tribal affiliations are Ngāpuhi, Te Whakatōhea and Te Arawa.