New research by the Property Council of Australia called out Sydney councils for being “asleep at the wheel” and for not providing the housing the city’s growing population needs.

Conducted by JBA, Australia’s urban development services consultancy firm, the research took a closer look at residential housing development proposals across 16 local government areas in the central and south west regions of Sydney over the past four years.

The research makes it clear that the planning system will struggle to meet Sydney’s future housing targets if councils continue to fail to up zone land to ensure the construction of new homes. (According to the Greater Sydney Commission, an estimated 725,000 new homes will be needed over the next 20 years.)

Across the central and south west districts of Sydney, 64% of residential Local Environment Plan amendments (which are used to assign land for development) were led by private industry, whereas only 29% were led by councils.

The gap is wider when it comes to larger developments that will deliver more than 100 dwellings for the community: 81% were developer-led whereas only 15% were council-led.

Jane Fitzgerald, Property Council NSW executive director, said the research highlights the fact that there is a worrying lack of forward thinking at a local level when it comes to supplying housing to a growing population and connecting it with infrastructure investment.     

“The Central District plan released…by the Greater Sydney Commission estimates that the district will grow by 16,260 people every year to 2036 and has a target of 157,500 more houses by 2036. Without strategic leadership from councils the housing demand from this increase in population will not be met and affordability will worsen.

“The South West district will grow by a massive 18,650 people per year to 2036 and has a housing target of 143,000 houses, yet only 5 new large residential developments were led by councils in this area over the past four years. We have a long way to go to meet the targets.”

Fitzgerald noted that the districts her team examined had received millions of dollars dedicated to major infrastructure, yet councils haven’t led zoning to provide for major residential development to ensure that houses and residents had easy access to this infrastructure.

“Many councils have started discussion papers, master plans, project plans – but our research shows that even if a document has been finished, there is no evidence it has been implemented.

“New home construction is crucial to the state’s economic fortunes as it underpins growth, jobs and affordability, [the report] shows us that councils are not taking up the challenge of meeting the demands of a growing population and without better strategic planning, the community will suffer.”

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