Infrastructure and services failing to keep pace with new housing growth

11 December 2018

Essential infrastructure and services such as public transport, roads, hospitals and schools are failing to keep pace with the delivery of new housing in growth areas of our largest cities, a new report from Infrastructure Australia warns.

The newest release in Infrastructure Australia’s Reform Series, Planning Liveable Cities, recommends substantial planning, funding and governance reforms to ensure Australia’s governments are appropriately coordinating the delivery of new housing in growing cities with the additional infrastructure and services needed to support it.

Infrastructure Australia Executive Director of Policy and Research, Peter Colacino said: “Australia’s largest cities are growing and changing at a rate not seen for more than 50 years. This brings economic, social and cultural opportunities for our cities, but if they are to remain great places to live, we need to balance growth in a way that works for the community.

“It is absolutely possible to grow our cities and maintain their character and world-class liveability, but we need to be smarter about how we plan for it.

“Too many communities have witnessed the delivery of poor quality housing development which is not well integrated into the local area and not accompanied by the infrastructure and services needed to support it. As a result, communities are understandably apprehensive about further growth and change.

“Lags in infrastructure provision cost the economy, but they also affect people’s quality of life. If we don’t get the timing of new housing and infrastructure right, our growth centres risk being characterised by congested roads, overcrowded trains and buses, over-enrolment in schools, hospital bed shortages and constraints on community infrastructure.

“As Australia’s population grows, it is crucial that we improve the way we plan for housing and infrastructure in our cities. Ensuring we have the right planning, funding and governance models in place will help the community see the value in increasing densities in appropriate areas and re-establish trust between communities and governments.

“To manage our projected population growth and prepare for the future, governments will need to ensure the delivery of new housing occurs alongside upgrades to the infrastructure and services required to make a place ‘liveable’ – from essential utilities to transport, schools, hospitals, parks and other community facilities. This will require better collaboration across levels of government and a greater focus on strategic-level planning.

"Around the country, governments are structured to deliver outcomes for sectors, such as transport, education, and health services, rather than outcomes for a ‘place’ and a community. This can lead to siloed planning and decision-making, which often leads to poor outcomes for communities.

Planning Liveable Cities recommends a greater focus on strategic-level planning at a ‘place’ level, including prioritising collaboration with the community to identify economic and social priorities that should not be compromised in order to cater for growth.

“This approach will enable governments to link the delivery of infrastructure and housing, to ensure people have access to a good local park and playground, a well-located school and health service and a frequent and reliable local bus.

“We want communities to have a say about the kind of places they want to live in and their future infrastructure needs. This report makes a clear case for a place-based approach that will enable governments to deliver more diverse housing, including at higher densities, in a way that supports the character and identity of each area,” Mr Colacino said.