Meteorologists predicted La Nina would bring a stormy summer to Brisbane this year and they were not wrong. The Brisbane storm season really did brew up a pretty impressive super cell. It is fuelled by low housing supply, unprecedentedly low interest rates, wage growth and a global pandemic, which sparked a record interstate migration and the return of hundreds of thousands of Australian expatriates. But the real thunder could be yet to come, with experts forecasting the Sunshine state may be still hit with a further 10 percent increase in house prices before this year is out.
We are seeing people from San Francisco, London, New York, Melbourne, Sydney and existing Brisbanites all trying to buy property, fuelling a property storm at a pace not seen in many of our lifetimes. In addition to housing prices rising at meteoric rates, rental prices are also increasing with many landlords choosing to sell because the market is now so strong, reducing rental supply.
The Department of Foreign Affairs reported that more than 450,000 Australians returned since travel restrictions due to COVID-19 were brought down in March last year. It is not just competition from buyers downsizing from Sydney or Melbourne, it is also people who are downsizing or coming home from San Francisco or London, who are cashed up and ready to splurge.
Brisbane is now increasingly becoming an alluring destination. The launch of major development and infrastructure projects in Brisbane such as, Howard Smith Wharves, Queens Wharf, Waterfront Brisbane, Brisbane Live, our second runway, Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro has catapulted Brisbane as a front runner for interstate migrants fleeing lockdowns and terrible weather.
The property storm brewed up a very harsh lightning bolt to the millennial generation, who were already significantly priced out of the Brisbane housing market and are now facing the very real prospect of moving to the ‘switch’. It really cannot be stressed enough that, right now, it is more important than ever to create policy that supports housing diversity, choice and most importantly affordability. This is critical if we are to ensure everyone weathers the storm with a literal roof over their head.
Right now, we have seen a reduction in ‘missing middle’ housing eg. townhouse supply within the suburban neighbourhoods of Brisbane (evidenced by the latest Land Supply Monitoring Report figures released by the Qld Government in late 2020, which surely is contributing to stronger revenues for completed townhouse products as people are paying a hot premium for good quality multiple dwellings. However, the Brisbane market now has finite opportunities for ‘missing middle’ housing typologies in the majority of our residential neighbourhoods, following the Brisbane City Council’s so called ‘townhouse ban’ (major Amendment H, to the City Plan 2014), adopted pre-COVID times. This amendment related to the removal of provisions that facilitated the development of multiple dwellings (townhouses, duplexs, triplexes, row houses etc) within all our Low-Density zoned suburbs, which make up around two thirds of Brisbane’s residential land.
Units sales are also increasing in demand, but changes to car parking rates in the City Plan 2014 via Amendment Package J is understood to have had a major impact on suburban unit projects located outside of the City Core or City Frame (again most of our residential land). This will add significant pressure to the future supply of units across the suburban areas.
These currently enforced policy decisions need an urgent review post Covid-19, given the current state of Brisbane’s property surge. Brisbane will lose a key demographic, with people aged 25-39 having to leave their city, their home. It begs the question, does our tall poppy syndrome stifle our creativity, our innovation? Does our mighty concern that the ‘greedy developer’ might have a win, win out over what is really important for the future of our city? Is the NIMBY (not in my back yard) mindset ingrained within us, our downfall?
If you welcome immigration, value equality and believe in housing for all, then what does that look like to you in terms of housing projects you would support? If you value Australia’s open landscapes and natural environment, wouldn’t you want to see housing demand met within our existing urban areas rather than continuing urban sprawl? Wouldn’t that be better than continuing to build infrastructure, roads, and public transport out beyond our current footprint? These fundamental values mean our housing choices are more important than ever. If instead you are asked to sign a petition to block a new housing project in your neighbourhood, think twice about how that sit with your values? We encourage you to adopt a YIMBY (yes in my back yard) mindset. It might just make our city more exciting, aspirational, walkable and affordable, making more efficient use of energy and resources and reducing the pressure on our natural environment.
We believe Brisbane is the best city in the world and is home to the best people. We can work together to house everyone; our voices do influence policy decisions. It is more important than ever, that we must act now! Because the current trajectory out of the storm will leave the millennials with their roofs blown off.
YIMBY (yes in my back yard) is a platform to have that community conversation. Our call to action is to look at the future of our cities through a different lens. Follow the YIMBY movement @yimbyqld