We are calling it. Greenfield development is officially dead in Brisbane and this article will explain why.
Just one glance of Brisbane’s crane filled skyline and it is easy to see why people say and believe there is an oversupply looming. However by analysing a few obvious trends, there is a lot more than meets the eye, and statistics show a very exciting future ahead for Brisbane.
Why are we seeing so many cranes and so many new residential apartment developments in the last 5 years?
Detached housing no longer the norm
For most of Brisbane’s 200 year history, detached housing construction has been not just a logical choice in terms of affordability but also the only growth method the city had.
This was until the 1990’s, when a tri-government partnership was established called the Urban Renewal Taskforce and was responsible for revitalising derelict industrial suburbs in Brisbane with the objective to create sustainable live-work communities in the inner city, revive local economies, deliver affordable housing and reverse the exodus of local residents and businesses.
This taskforce, along with a huge national and international inner city urban renewal trend set Brisbane on a completely different tangent.
Relic’s from Brisbane’s past. Source: Queensland State Library.
The shift back to Brisbane’s inner city is now not only lead by younger generations but by Baby Boomers who want to live closer to services, entertainment, dining and things to do.
Wherever you look, dwelling approvals of apartments now far exceed approvals of houses in Brisbane. This is no temporary fad, there is a clear reason why this is happening.
To explain this concept further, the growth that we are seeing in the inner city today through apartment construction is a result of continued growth that use to happen on Brisbane’s outskirts which, at the time was out of sight and out of mind, but now no longer can or does occur to the extent it did in the 20th century.
Brisbane has upheld a sustained increase of dwelling construction in line with demand and population growth however the dwelling type has now flipped to apartments.
No More Land
The establishment of the SEQ Urban Footprint, which is still in-tact today, protects 85% of South East Queensland’s open space by placing an absolute prohibition on subdivision of land located outside the Urban Footprint.
Unlike other Urban Footprint regulations in Australia, some of which have been watered down or altered, the SEQ Urban Footprint is one of the most successful in Australia and this has lead to the conservation of green zones throughout the region and between our urban centres.
It is because of this that Brisbane now does not have enough land to continue the rapid growth of suburban sprawl that we saw in the mid to late 20th century.
This is a very good thing. A city cannot continue to expand outwards and effectively deliver the same infrastructure and services enjoyed by people within the existing urban boundary at a sustainable cost to government and therefore taxpayers.
To put it simply, it is much more expensive to suburbanise and spread sparse populations over a large quantity of land compared to densification and upgrades of existing services within the current city boundary.
How much more you ask? According to report by Infraplan, a leading Australian urban planning policy consultancy, greenfield development costs approximately 110% more than infill development.
If you’re a numbers person, the below table illustrates the costs of Inner (densification) vs Outer (greenfield development).
Not only are the up-front infrastructure costs substantially higher, but also re-occurring operating costs over 50 years is a lot higher as well.
When controversy marred one of the last remaining developable greenfield sites in Brisbane known as Cedar Woods, located between Upper Kedron and The Gap, this just about signified the end of an era in Brisbane.
No longer can large detached housing estate developments proceed unhindered without community backlash due to the removal of green open space.
Originally touted as a ‘$900 million mega suburb‘ with 1,350 homes, the Cedar Woods development has now subsequently been watered down to just 480 lots in total. To put this into perspective, this ‘mega suburb’ now only makes up just 40% of the dwellings that will exist in Brisbane Skytower, a single 90 storey apartment tower in Brisbane’s CBD.
Now enter Springfield – Australia’s largest ‘private city’ built on the fringe of Brisbane and home to 32,000 people. Springfield is expected to grow to 86,000 by 2030, which is a small fraction of the expected 1 million people expected to move to Greater Brisbane in the next 15 years.
That aside, Springfield is actually now shifting it’s focus and has vowed to facilitate the construction of over 10,000 apartments as part of a new CBD area which can be seen below.
In the short term some pockets of Brisbane may experience a temporary high level of apartments which may result in a marginal decrease of rents in areas of average desirability, however as property prices in Brisbane are between 30-40% cheaper than in Sydney, prices of apartments are unlikely to see large reductions.
Brisbane is already Australia’s affordability and lifestyle capital, however as this trend continues, the city will also become one of the most urbanised and compact cities.
The Task Ahead for Government
As we are well aware, peak hour public transport in Brisbane is fast nearing capacity, so more needs to be done to invest in inner-city urban rail in order to cater for a million more people moving around Brisbane’s existing boundary.
The Brisbane City Council needs to introduce planning provisions which promote affordable three bedroom plus housing modes for families within the inner city. While there is a vast array of choices around Brisbane’s inner city for new one and two bedroom apartment stock, there is very little three bedroom stock within a 10km ring that is deemed as ‘affordable’ for families.
If we want to make Brisbane truly livable, we need to bring families back in from the outskirts of the city. By heavily incentivising three bedroom plus stock across the city, this could bring down the price of particular types of three bedroom stock as supply would increase.
To complement this, more urban squares, parks, activity zones are needed directly near high density locations in order to enhance liveability and ensure future residences of these areas retain a connection with nature.