Urbis Think Tank
Apartment living: a threat to Australia’s cricketing stocks?
The latest figures from the ABS show that across Australia’s capital cities the approvals for flats, units, apartments and townhouses (non-house type dwellings) continues to close the gap on the number of separate house approvals.
The first graph displays the last two years of (monthly) approvals data. It vividly shows how the gap has tightened between the different dwelling typologies – and how on three occasions more non-house approvals were recorded than separate houses.
Is this a short term trend – or a sign of things to come? The second graph shows the last fifteen years of approvals data and suggests that we maybe reaching a tipping a point in this country where apartments and other non-house type dwellings are built in greater numbers than separate houses.
The ABC Radio National program ‘Australia Talks’ recently aired a forum on the rise of apartment living (13/7/2011) in our captial cities. The central question being discussed was whether the recent upswell in apartment construction (and other non-house type dwellings) was simply about affordability,; and how the trend is changing our pattern of urban living. In a broad ranging discussion key points raised included:
- While affordability is a key factor driving apartment uptake – it is only one component of a complex demand picture
- Broad societal attitudes to apartments is changing - carrying less stigma as an ‘inferior dwelling choice’
- Proximity of apartment complexes to central city, transport and services a big factor
- Urban congestion and petrol costs making apartments more attractive choice
- Australia’s households are continuing to shrink – more single person households and fewer family type households – which is driving demand for non-house type dwellings
- State government planning policies are a factor driving apartment construction (restricting greenfield release)
- Households with two or more kids are the ‘last frontier’ for attracting into apartments
Drawing a particularly long bow, one correspondant from Hobart asserted that the recent success of the Tasmanian cricket side (having won 2 out out of the last 5 Sheffield Shield titles) was a result of very few children across Tasmania growing up in apartments. He put the view that kids in the mainland capitals who grew-up in apartments (without backyards to practice and play backyard cricket) were at a considerable disadvantage to those living on the ‘quarter acre block’.
Whilst a glib perspective, it does raise the importance of adequately allocating and appropriately designing open space in and around medium and higher density urban precincts. This is because both the quantitative and qualitative data strongly indicates that Australia’s cities are going to continue to densify (through apartment and other non-house type construction) over the coming decades.