#designperth: confronting the costs of sprawl
June 20, 2016 4 Comments
Density undoubtedly remains one of the most contentious topic in Perth. From debates on hi-rise to the role of DAPs, density is always in the media and it is a debate that has become unhelpfully fractious.
On one end of the debate there are those like Liam Bartlett railing against density (see his recent article from Perth Now and the Sunday Times here )
On the other end there is the unconventional research collaboration #designperth between Curtin Uni, the Property Council, CODA and the Greens which quantifies the hidden cost of sprawl to taxpayers, households and the economy.
Late last week these issues were debated at the Property Council’s Future Directions: The Density Debate at which I was a panelist and I came away thinking we are not adequately moving this important issue forward. So over the next few weeks I will write I few articles on density and WA and I’d love your feedback on where we should be going as a city.
I want to start by outlining the findings of the #designperth report.
Many of you would now be aware that Perth now stretches almost 150km along the Swan coastal plain. In fact, ten of Perth’s largest growing suburbs are on average 33km from the CBD. This sees many people having to travel long distanced on increasingly congested roads to get to their jobs.
This low density sprawl also means we are often not getting maximum use and efficiency out of the often expensive new infrastructure government is providing.
To put this in context #designperth estimates the cost to government of providing infrastructure such as roads, water, communications, power, emergency services, health and education to greenfield on the urban fringe sites costs $150,389 per lot, compared with $55,828 in infill sites. This translates to a saving of up to $94.5 million for every 1000 lots developed in infill sites.
To take the logic of these savings further, increasing Perth’s infill target from 47% to 60% (the original target under the previous Network City plan) would save WA $23 billion to 2050. This would pay for the entire Perth Light Rail network as originally proposed 12 times over or 9 new hospitals the size of Fiona Stanley. To put these estimates into perspective, the Western Australian Government has budgeted for a $5.9 billion asset investment program in 2016-17.
It seems all sides of the debate acknowledge that business as usual is not sustainable financially or environmentally but there seems to be little conviction in driving change towards less urban sprawl and more infill. In the next few weeks I will try and unpick this a bit more and flag some possible ways forward.