By 2056 it is projected Perth’s population will be more than 4 million people, close to Sydney’s current population, and with this we can expect our future population densities to be similar.

While Perth currently enjoys a population density of 300 people per square kilometre, Sydney’s population density is 380 people per square kilometre.

Population growth will undoubtedly see the Perth metropolitan footprint expand and existing density of urban areas increase, so how we accommodate the extra 80 people per square kilometre is a major challenge.

In the Delivering Directions 2031 Annual Report Card 2012*, housing targets have been determined for all local government areas. The target for additional dwellings for Perth’s central sub-region is 124,870 while the target for additional dwellings for the outer sub-region is 164,710.

For local governments it means they need to reach a gross urban zone density of 15 dwellings per hectare for greenfield areas. As it stands current data shows even the highest densities in Perth and Peel have an average density of only 10.8 dwellings per hectare, with the outer sub-regions having an even lower average density of 4.9 dwellings per hectare. This means there is certainly a long way to go for local governments to meet future housing needs.

To achieve greater housing density, it will be important to promote and increase housing diversity, adaptability, affordability and choices. To address this, the State Government is looking at ways to reform the planning system and recently made two significant changes to the residential design codes, known as the R-Codes. The changes, announced by the Government on 3 June 2013, will contribute towards more housing options.

The key R-Code reforms include giving home owners the opportunity to build and rent out granny flats, which increases housing choices and affordable options, and the lowering of the lot size which requires planning approval for single houses. Currently, 70 per cent of all residential lots are still larger than 600 square metres, while only 5 per cent are less than 300 square metres. Reducing lot sizes will help achieve targets.

A smart way to achieve density targets and increase housing is by the development of Activity Centres – strategic urban hubs comprising a competitive choice of quality residential, commercial and mixed used sites, with good amenities and close access to transport infrastructure.

LandCorp, working in partnership with the Department of Planning and other key government agencies, has been pivotal in developing and driving the Activity Centre concept. Cockburn Central is a major example of this, with its success in terms of growth seeing plans for the creation of Activity Centres in Murdoch, Claremont, the Cockburn Coast and Mandurah Junction.

Murdoch is one of five designated Specialised Centres identified in Directions 31, which address urban sprawl. LandCorp is facilitating the creation of a new city centre for the vast area taking shape around the $2 billion Fiona Stanley Hospital, the St John of God Hospital, Murdoch University and the Challenger Institute of Technology.

With a forecast of 35,000 workers, the centre will have one of the highest employment levels of any area outside the Perth CBD and potentially one of the country’s most intensive non-CBD employment centres. It will certainly raise the bar when it comes to creating more sustainable communities where people can live, work and play.

Exploring new ways to counter Perth’s future density challenges, limiting urban sprawl and securing economic and social prosperity, is a key priority for LandCorp. Remaining committed to this through effective planning is a smart way to manage density.

*The Delivering Directions 2031 Annual Report Card 2012 reviews and measures progress by State and local government and the private sector in implementing Directions 2031 since its release in August 2010.