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Liveable cities a priority


Predictions Melbourne’s growth areas could run out of land by 2036 should not alarm the homebuyers of the future.

Any rush to extend the city’s urban boundary, without considering its impacts on liveability, sustainability and infrastructure provision, is of much greater concern.

Forty-eight per cent of new homes were built in Melbourne’s new growth areas during the past year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Our research, The Post Pandemic Commute, shows more people working from home may push population growth further out, fuelling road congestion and crowding train lines as workers choose to travel longer distances, even if less often.

Any development beyond Melbourne’s existing boundary would mean considerable new investment by governments to provide infrastructure for utilities, roads, public transport, schools, hospitals and community services.

Building non-transport related infrastructure in growth suburbs is typically about two to four times more expensive than in established areas. On average, the Victorian government spends about $50,000 and councils $38,000 to support each new home in growth areas.

Locating more homes in places without good transport connections also increases local traffic congestion. Also, our research shows most growth areas are already facing a shortage of social infrastructure including libraries and aquatic and recreation centres in the next five years. New libraries can cost up to $30m; new aquatic centres range from $50m-$70m and this cost cannot be met by local governments alone.

Any conversation about Melbourne’s population growth and the current tree-change trend must include a discussion of density and that means building more homes in established places. Many established suburbs can accommodate more homes, with good access to employment, education, services and transport.

By understanding community needs and investing in supporting infrastructure and upgrades, these established places can add more homes, to become sustainable and inclusive communities. In supporting new homes in established areas, low-income households should be included.

With a renewed focus on better integration of land use planning and infrastructure, and other policy reforms recommended in Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy, we can accommodate growth without compromising liveability.

Jonathan Spear is Acting CEO of Infrastructure Victoria. 

The article originally appeared in the Herald Sun on Wednesday, December 8.

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