Onwards could mean upwards for housing in Queensland's regions

28 April 2022

Population growth and rising rents in regional Queensland have demonstrated a need for increased housing' but is high-density development the answer?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic' more people have become interested in living in the regions which according to CQUniversity property expert Dr Steven Boyd has sparked conversations around high-density living.

"High-density residential zones encourage the development of buildings with multiple homes'" he said.

"These are likely to be some of the tallest in the local council area' for example' apartments that are more than five storeys high."

Traditionally high-density housing has been used in large metro areas but increasing the intensity of land use is popular with many town planners' developers' and authorities in areas of anticipated population growth.

"Some people may not realise that regional Queensland already has pockets of high-density development across the state."

"There is an area designated in Rockhampton between Victoria Pde and Lama St' South Townsville has a precinct' and in Mackay Harbour at Mulherin Drive to name a few areas."

He said that some regional councils' like Mackay Regional Council' have expressed the benefits of increasing high-density development with justification that a more compact urban form is the solution to avoid urban sprawl.

"There are many benefits in reducing land consumption that respond to environmental' economic and social considerations. And proponents of higher density development speak of improved housing affordability' increased use of sustainable (public and active) transport' encouraging active and healthy communities' and support for new infrastructure projects."

"Additionally' the Queensland Government relate higher density living and smaller lot sizes to Sustainable Development Goals' 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities' and 12. Responsible Consumption and Production."

While high-density development can be successful in regions that are well-integrated with public transport' employment opportunities and services to help revitalise existing urban areas' Dr Boyd warned that they are not suitable for every community.

"Some residents love the quieter life that regions provide. If local governments and developers push greater density on communities then they must expect a push back."

"On Queensland's Sunshine Coast we witnessed what some called a 'battle for the beach'' relating to a proposed for higher density hotel development' that was fought out between an international developer supported by the local council and two agile and resourced community organisations."

"The initial Yaroomba Beach development for a new seven-storey' five-star hotel' shopping centre' 148 dwellings or places of short-term accommodation' an educational establishment' community use amenities and utility installation was approved in 2018'" he said.

"Although the addition of this high-density development was said to align with the Council's key strategic policies of investment in new tourism accommodation' creating local jobs' and sustainable outcomes' it did not meet community expectations for building height.

"This year the Supreme Court set aside the decision' putting a hold on the multimillion-dollar development.

"It sends a strong message to developers and regional councils that increasing or changing the intensity of land use must consider community expectations' in addition to the environmental or cultural significance of the land."