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Time to change the conversation around density

It’s time we talked about density. Or more to the point, it’s time we had a different conversation about density.

The density debate, as it’s become known, gets plenty of airtime – but for the most part, it’s focused on conflict and community opposition, and not the benefits it can deliver for West Australians.

And the benefits are significant. In an examination of the range of policies that would improve housing affordability, the Grattan Institute found that the only one with a “very large” impact in increasing supply was improving density in middle suburbs.

It’s also about delivering real housing choice – ensuring a diverse range of living options and price points in all suburbs, allowing people to live close to where they work, where they grew up and where their family and friends are.

Governments of all persuasions know that increasing the amount of quality urban infill in Perth is a crucial means of achieving housing affordability and choice for future generations. But it’s politically difficult.

Despite leadership at the Government and property industry level, a large part of the community remains uncertain about or resistant to increasing density in our suburbs.

When the benefits appear so clear, it’s time we considered just why that is – and that’s the question that has underpinned a major new piece of research commissioned by the Property Council.

The research, to be released next week, set out to examine and understand community perceptions around density. We spoke to a range of government and industry stakeholders, and importantly, to people from established suburbs across Perth.

We asked residents about their fears, concerns and objections, and about what they wanted from their home and their community. What we found was that there was a disconnect between what people understood density to be, and how it could deliver the very things they wanted.

The findings showed us community views on density fell in to a clear matrix; and the research has for the first time mapped out that matrix, and how best to communicate with each group.

It’s worth noting that those who seek to increase density in Perth will never appease everyone.

But our research has also revealed a large proportion of the population that will be open to supporting density, provided it meets their expectations.

We’re looking forward to unveiling our findings on this next week, and to reframing the conversation around the future of our city and how we live in it.

Sandra Brewer is Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia (WA).

The Property Council Australia WA Division will release its research report at a breakfast event on Friday, June 21. To register click here