Development reforms pave way for much-needed variety in housing options in western suburbs

Source: Perth Now

A Gen Z homeowner has revealed how an apartment gave her the foot in the door she needed to get into the western suburbs of her choice, as a leading apartment living advocate calls for a need to get over the “snob factor” of owning houses and land.

The comments come as the dust settles on WA Premier Mark McGowan’s development reforms announced last month, whereby medium-density developments would soon be able to bypass the local council approvals process.

During the announcement, Mr McGowan took aim at western suburbs councils in particular for stonewalling multi-dwelling proposals.

Australian Apartment Advocacy chief executive Samantha Reece said there had been growing demand for alternative housing in the historically low-rise suburbs within a 10km radius of the Perth CBD.

“While AAA understands that placing high-rise on major traffic routes will lessen demand for apartments within these suburbs, our research shows that apartment owners are seeking apartments in the CBD and near the river and the ocean,” she said.

“A happy medium would be to provide choice within the apartment sector, such as boutique right through to large complexes.”

Ms Reece said it was of utmost importance to build apartments in the right “village” settings, close to transport and natural amenities such as the beach.

“We need to get over the snob factor that house and land is viewed as more prestige than apartments, especially when apartments can sell for $5 million plus,” she said.

“The councils have had time to prepare their communities for YIMBY (yes, in my backyard) and yet they have constantly defaulted to NIMBY, even when there are examples of QIMBY (quality in my backyard) such as Shenton Park’s Evans St and Victoria Quarter.”

Using DevelopmentWA’s Claremont On the Park project as an example — where 51 per cent of its residents relocated from the surrounding suburbs of Claremont, Dalkeith, Cottesloe and Nedlands — Ms Reece said we needed to look to the future to see how units would become a valued option.

“We need to be able to project 10 to 15 years ahead when our ageing population will represent a bulk of our demographics and when ageing in place will be very much front of mind,” she said.

“People want to stay in the community where their friends, family doctor and social activities are and this means we are going to have to focus on a more balanced approach to apartments and their role in our society.”

Mia Lomman, 22, a functions and events manager at Bar Lafayette and W Churchill, owns her own apartment in the mould-breaking ONE Subiaco complex and said the development presented an opportunity that was too hard to pass up.

“I always knew I wanted to be close to work in the city, hence Subiaco and the western suburbs were a top choice for me,” she said.

“House and land was not something I seriously considered and I prefer a more low-maintenance property and secure premises that an apartment offers.

“When I put down my deposit in 2020, the cost of my apartment was $400,000 and, as a young buyer with a single income, affordability was a key requirement for me when making my decision.

“More apartment developments like ONE Subiaco could greatly benefit my peers, it will make home ownership a more achievable goal for my generation, like my sisters who in a few years will be in the same position looking for similar accommodation and opportunities as I have been afforded.”

Like Ms Lomman, Claremont resident David Airey — a local real estate guru — said location and amenity put paid to any hesitation to downsize from his and late wife Megan’s two-storey, four-bedroom house.

“We looked at Leighton but we’re not beach people and we looked at Mosman Park and there was nothing built and nothing we wanted,” Mr Airey said.

“Opposite us we’ve got the lovely Foodies IGA which sells fabulous small meals, we got the Porters Liquor store, Mary Street Bakery, El Cabro coffee shop, there’s the Revo gym in the Claremont footy stadium, I’ve got ongoing football games in front of me, around the corner, there’s the Showground and over the railway line is Claremont, which is the centre of the universe for me as I can’t see a reason to go anywhere else.”

Mr Airey’s three-bedroom unit in Reserve Grandstand Apartments at Claremont on the Park presented what was undoubtedly a seismic change in his life, but he has since realised just how perfect a shift it was.

“My wife and I decided to move here in 2018 as a result of her contracting an illness,” he said.

“We lived in a two-storey modern 4×2 with a pool in Claremont and — at that stage, I was in my mid-60s — it was all starting to get a bit much, and every time we went away to travel we had to get somebody to mind it, water the plants and these things got to be quite tricky.

“Moving into the apartment from a house that was double, if not triple, the size was quite a change emotionally as well as physically, but what we realised it we never used more than 100sqm of the old house and in an apartment we used every square metre.

“Then Megan passed away at end of 2021 and, on another level, the apartment’s worked out for me well because I would have struggled to make the move but I’ve got a good supportive family and, in the building, the friends we’ve made here.

“The neighbours we had for 20 years living in (the old house) we’ve never seen again but friends here we see them every day; you pass them at the lift and we have Friday night drinks on the rooftop terrace.”

Developer Blackburne, who is behind the recently completed ONE Subiaco complex, echoed Australian Apartment Advocacy’s sentiment for the need for mixed-used, multi-residential developments in areas where buyers wanted local options in which to downsize.

In addition, Blackburne developments director Matthew Chau said the State Government reforms would better the planning process, which would in turn improve the diversity of housing options.

“The development approval process is a critical element of improving the State’s built form and anything that provides more resource to their assessment will improve outcomes for applicants and the community,” he said.

“Our view is that access to developable land is the main constraint behind more infill developments in established suburbs.”

Australian property group Mirvac, which has delivered units and terrace homes in Claremont, said the planning reforms would help bring greatly-needed housing stock to market.

“Simplified and streamlined government planning processes are critical to ensure that housing delivery can keep up with demand and we are looking forward to playing our role to make sure that West Australians have access to high-quality housing options in a choice of locations that suit their needs,” Mirvac WA residential development general manager Paige Walker said.

Ms Walker said Mirvac also put in place initiatives to support first-homebuyers, including its rent-to-buy program offered at Claremont on the Park, and strategically pricing apartments at the Ador The Peninsula, Burswood, community so buyers could qualify for the State Government’s first homeowner grant and/or stamp duty concessions.