Still lots of room to boost population density in Brisbane

The vexed issue of heritage protection is in the news again, with controversy over the development of two apartment blocks behind the 1886 Clayfield heritage home Mundumburrah”, which will be raised and brought forward on its lot to accommodate the development, as reported in today’s Courier-Mail. I cannot see the problem with this, but it has upset local residents who are questioning whether the Council is committed to protecting Brisbane’s heritage.

The Council’s decision regarding this particular property appears sensible within the current guidelines. Redeveloping those inner city suburbs with character housing, and increasing the population density of those suburbs, is a major way we can accommodate a growing population and house people closer to where they work and play. Consider that there is a lot of scope to boost population density in Brisbane, as ABS data reveal that the population densities of our inner city suburbs are well below those in Sydney and Melbourne (see the chart below).


As has been pointed out on this blog several times before, such as in Brad Rogers’s guest post Old Queenslanders in a New City, the protection of heritage can come at a high economic cost. We should respect our heritage, of course, but there are more sensible ways to do that than ruling out the re-development of every old house in Brisbane.

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5 Responses to Still lots of room to boost population density in Brisbane

  1. Jason O'Dwyer says:

    I’m a bit perplexed about this. On one hand we say more population and higher density due to population growth however on the other banks and RBA are saying glut over supply etc etc in brisbane. I realise that Fed Govt and state have both set targets for population density that council must hit but how does this for the average punter lead to property bubble talk it seems incongruous.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Hello Jason, yes, good points. Regarding the apartment glut, we certainly do have one at the moment, but the market will adjust eventually. Looking over the medium to long-term I think we need to allow more development in character suburbs. Currently, I’d say we’re seeing a lot of development of big uninspiring apartment towers in formerly light industrial/commercial areas like Milton and Newstead instead of medium-density development that could occur in character suburbs. We have small pockets of high density in the inner city, with other parts of the inner city being relatively low density. I think we can even things out and create more livable suburbs. Regarding the bubble, I think that’s more an issue for Sydney and Melbourne than Brisbane, as property prices haven’t gone up here anywhere near as much as down south.

  2. One can only imagine the possibilities for this site in Toowong currently on the market. 12,340m2 with city views.

  3. Jim says:

    The lower density in Brisbane is surely a reflection of market conditions under the current market arrangements. I am sure if you surveyed many people (not all) living in units in Sydney and Melbourne, they would indicate a preference for a back yard. They just can’t afford it unless they lose an extra couple of hours commuting.

    The problem as I see it is that there are no proper pricing signals within the property market relating to the externalities of urban sprawl (e.g. the developer charges that actually reflect the decline in water quality, impacts on road congestion, inefficiencies in delivering government services etc.), or rates that reflect the increased cost of service delivery (much lower per property in high density areas).

    I think there are a lot of opportunities for improving the efficiency of land markets through the way government charges are imposed (both up-front and ongoing charges). But I doubt there is the political will.

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