Comments | Series of cities, in addition to Sydney, the answer to NSW’s housing issue | Central Western Daily


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese included housing affordability as a key plank in his campaign. Mr Albanese said a Labor government would provide eligible homebuyers with an equity contribution of up to 40 per cent of the purchase price of a new home and up to 30 per cent for an existing home. The housing industry welcomed the policy, which includes a new body that would consult with states and territories to set targets for land supply, and provide consistent data on housing supply, demand, and affordability. There is a national shortage of about 500,000 houses. We need more, many more, but that’s not possible without land. So, we need a state and/or federal program to identify where our growing population is likely to settle. At a recent property investment conference, Andrew Wilson, chief economist at My Housing Market, said settlement strategy is too important to leave to local government because NIMBY (not in my backyard) campaigns too often influence local councillors. Dr Wilson said this hampers 100-year-plus planning of Australia’s urban fabric. In 1889 Sydney’s population was about 400,000. In 2022, the population of Sydney has reached 5,300,000, which represents a 2 per cent annual growth rate. The current population of NSW is 8,210,000. This is consistent with present recorded growth rates and low to mid-range future projections based on 1 per cent immigration growth and 1 per cent natural population growth. At this rate, in 2067 there will be 13,300,000 people in Sydney. In 45 years, will geographers and planners define Sydney as stretching from Wollongong to Newcastle? Which brings us to regional NSW. If the ratio of population of Sydney to regional NSW stays the same, in addition to the 13,300,000 people living in Sydney in 2067, there will be 7,300,000 living in regional NSW. This is up from the 2,910,000 today, which includes Wollongong and Newcastle. How can planners map a settlement strategy to provide good housing, relatively free of congestion, and with access to work and quality lifestyle? How big will each settlement be? How will we allow growth to happen? How should we constrain it? Settlement can only go horizontally, vertically, or up in value, with some variations. The solution is a series of cities, in addition to Sydney, ranging in population from 500,000 to 2,000,000. They could be Newcastle, Gosford, Wollongong, Orange, Coffs Harbour, Albury, Mudgee, Tamworth, Ballina, Dubbo, Port Macquarie, Wagga Wagga, Nowra, Goulburn, and Parkes. So, to the elephant in the room. If a publisher asked different countries to write a book about elephants, here’s how some might turn out. England. . . elephants and the empire; France. . . mating habits of the elephant; Germany. . . discipline and the elephant; Australia . . . elephants – federal or state responsibility? It’s the same with housing policy. Critics of Mr Albanese’s plan say putting taxpayer funds into an open-ended, interest-free agreement that depends on continuing growth in the housing market in the face of rising interest rates and a global downturn, is a risk not only to government funds but to the people who take up the offer. In any case, we need either the federal government or the NSW government, but not necessarily both, to prepare and roll out a settlement strategy. With improved communication and transport links for the first time since colonisation, we can defeat the tyranny of distance. With sovereign investments in manufacturing and multi-node employment hubs, the proposed 500,000-to-2,000,000 population centers can flourish. They will provide an urban setting for a population not reliant on Sydney for work. It’s time one of the tiers of government recognized the large mammal in the corner as an elephant and addressed it directly.


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