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28 September 2021

How COVID-19 has changed what WA homebuyers want

UDIA WA President Col Dutton Opinion Piece published in The West Australian

How we address housing diversity in Perth has been a longstanding conversation for State and local government, as well as WA’s property sector.

With research from the Urban Development Institute of Australia showing land supply in some areas of Perth could run out in four years, it is critical government and land developers work together on a well-considered, integrated approach that provides diverse housing options throughout WA.

Perth’s population is tipped to grow to 3.5 million by 2050, accelerating the need to cater to tomorrow’s generation.

The State Government’s 2018 Perth and Peel @ 3.5 million framework originally set out to achieve 47 per cent infill and 53 per cent greenfield housing by 2050. We’ve recognised increasing urban infill projects will play a key role in accelerating Perth’s planning reforms and will improve connectivity for city residents.

While inner-city renewal is a practical strategy to accommodate population growth, we have seen a change in buyer priorities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with a shift back to suburban living.

Stockland’s 2020 Spring Survey revealed prospective home buyers are now prioritising access to nature and space over proximity to the CBD.

This trend is amplified by WA’s existing outdoors culture with the natural environment and beaches being a key part of our lifestyle. The question is how do we balance land supply and provide housing options that cater to their priorities?

Masterplanned community design is key in using limited land supply efficiently and creating well-considered, amenity-rich precincts. With more people seeking access to nature and community, it’s critical land developers design greenfield communities with the future in mind.

There has been an increase in people working from home. As a result, people are spending more time in their community.

By providing access to schools, shops, public transport and community infrastructure, we can create vibrant micro-hubs where people don’t just reside, but also connect, socialise and engage. For the existing and future greenfield developments on metropolitan Perth’s fringe, the focus is on increased and improved transport. Ensuring communities are connected by public transport that is efficient, affordable and well-considered will be crucial.

The Metronet project will be extremely beneficial to residents in the outer suburbs as it will open up access to the city and other areas. Increased use of public transport will see it become more affordable for Perth residents, and in turn encourage our city to rely more on that instead of cars.

Increased housing diversity is also needed to address Perth’s “missing middle” and growing buyer preference for low-density living. Affordable housing options, created through medium-density dwellings such as terrace homes and townhouses, open up home ownership to a broader demographic of people.

At Stockland, we’ve seen an increased demand for medium density homes in recent years, with buyers looking for affordable options that provide convenience, and allow residents to live in a thriving community with access to the city and nearby amenity.

While less impacted by lockdowns than other States, COVID-19 has changed our ways of working in WA to rely more on technological connection than a physical presence in the office. This has meant many can retain their job without having to travel, instead working from the comfort of home.

This has dramatically changed the lifestyle of 9-5 workers and as a result there has been a big increase in demand for spacious homes that can accommodate one or more family members working from home.

Diverse housing will provide greater options for homebuyers, moving away from a dependency on cars and focusing on walkability.

Through a well-considered, integrated approach, government and land developers can create greater housing diversity in WA and accommodate changing buyer priorities, which will see major improvements to our city and the quality of life for Perth residents.