Give people what they want

THE housing mix is wrong and the property industry is failing to provide the types of housing that people really want, according to a survey by the Grattan Institute.  

“Housing matters,” the report says. “Building enough of the right housing not only provides for our individual choices, but also sets the structure of our cities, which, in turn, can affect issues such as the time we spend commuting (and in congestion), the cost of infrastructure, even the continued concentration of economic and social vulnerability at the fringes of our cities.”

The institute surveyed more than 700 Sydney and Melbourne residents and asked them what sorts of homes they wanted.

They wanted the suburban house and garden far less than planners assume. In fact, both cities showed shortages, caused by demand outstripping supply, of apartments and town houses. Were such a survey to be conducted in Canberra, I think the results could be very similar.

People factor real circumstances, such as housing prices and income into their decisions, which indicates a need for a larger range and variety of housing types than they are currently being offered.

And in the ACT, whenever urban apartment developments are mooted, many people vote with their feet and their bank accounts to get on the developer’s list, even before the apartments are completed.

It seems that the effect on the people who want these homes (and on those of us who have to pay for the infrastructure blowouts and shortfalls as a result of an unbalanced housing solution) should be enough to encourage planners to ask the people what they want and then remove the barriers to providing it, including punitive taxes, fees and charges.

As the survey reported: “We should not be afraid to shape our cities: otherwise we risk them shaping us.”

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