May 10, 2017
Michael Matusik

I am here to help – so, no May budget commentary from me this evening.  You can do with the break! Let’s talk about housing density instead.

Town planning is encouraging more housing density in our middle to outer suburbs.

Sometimes this is done as a forerunner for improved local transport infrastructure.  But most of the time it is done to meet population targets – more bums of seats, so to speak, which in simple terms leads to more council rates, more development monies and a bigger share of the various taxation receipts.

The density targets are often eye wateringly high.  They are often in excess of 25 dwellings per hectare and at times, much higher.

So how dense are our cities?   The table below provides some interesting statistics.

You can see from our table that it is a very big ask to lift suburban densities to the anticipated levels.

For those who may want to question these statistics, let’s outline how I worked them out, using New Farm, in inner Brisbane, as the case study.  New Farm is 2.1km², which is 210 hectares.  There are 14,100 residents as at mid-2016.  This equates to 6,714 people per hectare.  There are, on average, 1.9 people per dwelling.  This, then, equates to 35.3 dwellings per hectare.  Remember, over half of our urban space is used for roads, parks and non-residential land uses etc.

See, few fully appreciate what, say 25 dwellings per hectare, really looks like.  Only a handful of our suburbs have this degree of housing intensity.

Before I go further, here is a voice from the bleachers.  Toni is a long-time Matusik Missive subscriber.  Toni says:

A friend in Greenslopes has had two apartment blocks appear in her street in the last twelve months.  They got special exemptions for a reduced number of car spaces, due to their proximity to Logan Rd.  Now, locals can no longer park in the street, the garbage trucks could not drive up the street and as a few weeks ago, the Council banned parking in literally half of the street.   This is now affecting prices for existing properties in the street, as there is no reasonable extra parking!!  So from all of this, the ONLY winners are the developers, who will be long gone very soon, when the units are all sold off – oh, and of course BCC, with all the additional rates coming in.

There are some serious issues here, not only from a market match perspective, but also in what I call social engineering – the act of rebalancing a suburb’s liveability.

In the meantime, expect a lot of local resistance and a big impact on sale prices and rental yields in these areas.

Maybe we should be tackling this from a different angle.  What if we limit population growth to an acceptable limit – effectively putting up a “We are full” sign.  With the subtext saying “You are welcome, but there is a waiting list.  Please join the queue.”

Keen to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,


Michael Matusik


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