Paul Fletcher MP

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Transport the key to controlling cost of housing

Articles by Paul Tuesday, 02 May 2017

There is a clear link between housing affordability and planning new transport infrastructure. As last year's 15-Year Australian Infrastructure Plan pointed out, Australia's population is growing - as is the share of the population in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Housing supply needs to keep up with population growth in our big cities or the imbalance will drive up prices. Many things must happen before new housing comes onto the market, including zoning, planning approval, the supply of utilities like water and electricity, and the home being built.

Another vital requirement is transport connectivity - the way housing is connected to the rest of the city, particularly where jobs are located.

Because there are more jobs in Sydney, but housing is more affordable on the Central Coast, some 30,000 people use the M1 and Sydney Trains each day to travel between the Central Coast and Sydney.

There are about one million people in the workforce who live in Western Sydney - but a third of them need to travel outside Western Sydney for work every day. As employment patterns and the nature of work change, our transport needs are changing.

In a services economy highly skilled workers are most productive when located close to each other. This is why jobs, especially high-value jobs, are increasingly locating in the CBD and in other clusters such as North Sydney, Macquarie Park, Parramatta and the Airport. So not only do we need the supply of housing to keep up with population growth, but we also need that housing to be supported with good transport links to where the jobs are.

Better transport infrastructure planning can help address the issue of housing affordability in several ways.

First, we need to plan transport arteries to support the release of new land for housing, either on the outskirts of the city or in brownfields areas.

The Berejiklian government is building Sydney Metro Northwest, which will bring heavy rail to the fastgrowing northwestern suburbs and the Hills district from 2019. The South West Rail Link to Leppington, opened in 2015, connects an area where there is rapid growth of new housing into the Sydney urban rail network.

Secondly, we need to get people into and out of key employment clusters such as the CBD, Parramatta and Macquarie Park - and the cluster expected to grow around the new Western Sydney Airport. The Sydney Metro Northwest will connect to the Sydney Metro City and Southwest, due to open in 2024, with new stations at North Sydney, Barangaroo and Martin Place, offering efficient metro style turn-up-and-go rail access into the CBD.

Third, there is a clear connection between heavy and light rail on the one hand, and more apartment and townhouse living around the stations of these rail links on the other. One good example is at St Leonards and Chatswood, where shopping centres and apartment buildings have been retrofitted around stations to create vibrant urban communities with excellent transport access, as well as other facilities such as shops and childcare.

Along new rail links there are opportunities to create such communities from the outset and in turn reduce road congestion. As we plan for a continuing supply of housing, we also need to plan for that housing to be well connected to jobs. That is a priority for the Turnbull government in the work we are doing with state and territory governments around Australia.

Paul Fletcher is the federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure.

Authorised by Paul Fletcher MP, Level 2, 280 Pacific Highway Lindfield NSW 2070.

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