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Development at Rouse Hill. Development at Rouse Hill.
24 March 2013 Posted by 

Housing delivery is the key to the future

By Dr Michelle Byrne

THE NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure recently announced plans that set out how the areas around the new North West Rail Link stations will look.

As part of a larger ‘improved affordable housing’ initiative, the announcement outlined 27,000 new homes and 46,500 new jobs to be created in centres around the eight new stations.

The majority of these homes will be high density apartment living.  We understand that a massive multi-billion dollar infrastructure project like the North West Rail will need high density living around it to ensure the people of Sydney make maximum use of it.

We understand that we need to accommodate our share of Sydney’s growth in The Sydney Hills and we also understand that housing choice is necessary to allow more people the opportunity to purchase a home here.

Affordability comes with diversity, and we offer the whole spectrum from rural lifestyle and large lot residential blocks through to smaller lot housing and apartments – and this gives some pricing perspective to the market.

We also understand that we need to get the balance right. Our community deserves to be able to maintain their quality of life. We like our four-bedroom home with a backyard, and for some of us, this is the reason we live here.

I’d like to point out that these plans are just that – plans and ideas. They act as a pointer for the future, predicting what uses of the land might look like with the arrival of the rail.  

While the North West Rail Link precinct plans are the work of The State Government, Council will be doing all we can to listen to our community and help shape the outcome.

Any medium to high density housing proposal for The Sydney Hills must be of high quality. It must complement our existing homes, and people who live in apartments must have access to parks, open spaces, places to shop, walk and play sport.  

I recently attended the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s National Congress where the theme was ‘Population: a Vision for the Nation’.

Development was looked at in terms of the needs of people, with affordable housing high on the agenda.  The presentation that really captured my imagination was by Kate Carnell, CEO of Beyond Blue.

Kate described the role that open spaces and green areas play in creating better mental health outcomes for those who live in high density, and as a community, it is up to us to ensure we insist on including these places when we accommodate people in apartments.  

Finally, to truly address housing options in Sydney, the State Government must find ways to fast-track the supply of new release land. We have land available and ready to go for housing, but delays in connecting things like sewer and water is acting like a handbrake on the housing supply market. 

Also, the big question that remains with opening up new housing land - like the new Box Hill Release Area - is how we will address the gap in funding that has been caused by the State Government's cap on Section 94 ‘developer’ contributions.

I acknowledge that providing infrastructure to meet the increased housing need will always be a challenge.

While we understand that this problem was inherited from the previous government, Council still needs to provide drainage, sporting fields, local parks, playgrounds and all of the other essentials a new community needs so people can move in, work locally and enjoy a good quality of life.

So the sooner the Section 94 shortfall problem is fixed, and a mechanism by which Council can recoup the funding shortfall is announced, the faster more new home sites can be made available.

The people are coming - and we prepared to work with the government to accommodate our share of growth. If we get the supply line right - and the diversity right - we can create housing affordability.

What housing affordability should not be about is budget low-rent high-rise density living that the community will come to resent. Attempts in the past to address affordability by dumbing down planning standards is tantamount to admitting to systemic failure.  

Our message to the State Government is clear – we are building communities not just tower blocks. Let’s seize the opportunity to make it work for everyone.

By Dr Michelle Byrne is Mayor of the Hills Shire.

 

 



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