AS the NSW Government embarks on new measures to increase the supply of housing in the Sydney basin, one question needs to be asked: How long can this possibly go on?
Mike Baird’s government has been clear and vocal in its opinion that the one sure way to increase the affordability of homes in Sydney – where some renters believe they now have no chance of ever being able to buy their own place – is to increase the number of properties.
“We are not after headlong development of any kind, but we also need to provide more homes,” Planning Minister Rob Stokes was quoted as saying this week.
He was talking about the state, but it’s in Sydney where the real crunch is being felt for first home buyers. And it’s in Sydney where the NSW Government has been opening up vast tracts of new land for housing and doing something a bit radical this time: building public transport to service it.
But, at the risk of stating the obvious, there is only so much land in the Sydney basin.
At some stage, it will all be gone. And before we reach that stage, the Sydney housing sprawl will have swallowed up the market gardens, farming paddocks, horse studs and open spaces that stop a city from being one unbroken stretch of concrete and tar from its CBD to its fringe.
So if the solution is not more housing in Sydney, then what is the solution?
The solution is just over the Blue Mountains.
A program of decentralisation and an accompanying program of road and rail upgrades could achieve what the vast new housing estates in Sydney’s north west, south west and the Southern Highlands will not be able to do: it could provide hope for those who want to buy their own home.
In the age of the internet, there is no reason why NSW Government employees can’t do their jobs from Orange, Bathurst, Lithgow or Mudgee.
With a new injection of investment in the Great Western Highway, Bells Line of Road and the Blue Mountains train line, there is no reason why these new residents of the Central Tablelands or Central West can’t make day trips every weekend if they want to visit friends and family in Sydney.
And where’s the money coming from? The NSW Government is already spending it trying to shoehorn more people into an already overstuffed metropolitan basin.
The current methods don’t seem to be working. Perhaps new thinking is needed.