Two UQ geographers have written a great Conversation article, republished in the Brisbane Times, on Why city policy to ‘protect the Brisbane backyard’ is failing. The authors argue that current planning policies lead to undesirable outcomes. Current Brisbane City Council policies include a preference for low-density infill (i.e. sub-dividing a block and sticking another house on it), a townhouse ban in single home precincts, and heritage protection of old Queenslanders. One perverse outcome of current policies is that, despite the objective of the Council to preserve green space, there is now less green space in Brisbane suburbs as suburban blocks are subdivided and new detached dwellings are crammed into the new lots. Here’s the summary of the implications of existing policies from the authors Rachel Gallagher and Thomas Sigler:
While low-density infill may balance consumer preference for detached houses with meeting infill targets, it in effect creates a “compressed suburbia”. The results fail to deliver on the core promises of consolidation policy, including greater housing diversity and affordability, and a halt to urban sprawl.
It also leads to a dichotomy of new dwellings: high-rise apartments or detached houses. We found very little development of medium-density dwellings.
This is a real shame as medium-density development is probably the best way to meet the housing needs of Brisbane’s population while maintaining highly liveable neighbourhoods. On the potential benefits of medium-density development in Brisbane, I’d recommend an excellent essay by Tony Hall in the volume A Climate for Growth, which I commented on in one of my earliest QEW posts Planning for the 200-kilometre city.
In my view, it would be desirable to remove both the townhouse ban and heritage protection of old Queenslanders to allow more medium-density development in Brisbane.
Relevant previous QEW posts include:
BCC should consider economic consequences of townhouse ban
Brad Rogers’ Guest post – Old Queenslanders in a New City
Senate inquiry should consider impact of heritage protection on housing affordability
Gene, this is an issue that interests me. In my suburb of Carina which is one of hot selling suburbs of Brisbane many of the older 50s houses on larger blocks are removed or demolished to make way for block splitting and two new houses build. Very common in neighbouring Camp Hill for many years and now in some of the popular streets in Carina. To me, no great loss to see the often unattractive and inadequate 50s “housing commission” houses removed and I like that the new houses sell for $900k+ each which pushed up my property value. The new houses are very large and take up a lot of the block and quite liveable in size and amenities but there is no aspect. A narrow front and pocket size back yard with most windows facing the side close to the next door similar house. No cross breeze so AC is very important and to me would be claustrophobic. But, on the plus side, compared to townhouses, there are no body corporate fees or committees to deal with. Body corporate fees and the need for any modification being strictly controlled and needing committee approval possibly including people with quite different values and financial means keeps me away from medium density property investment.