Brisbane population pushed out of our city
What sort of Brisbane do you want to see in 2050? The choices our city leaders make today continue to shape the Brisbane of tomorrow. And in this, an election year for our City Council, it’s worth thinking about current planning decisions and the way we’ll house Brisbane population as we grow.
Here’s three ways our planners are now pushing residents out of our inner city and back into the ‘burbs:
The Lord Mayor’s 2019 “townhouse ban” caused lots of debate among the town planning profession, putting a stop to this type of project in many inner-city suburbs. At a time when we’re trying to curb urban sprawl, reduce the huge challenges around transport infrastructure and traffic by encouraging people to live closer – why lock up large tracts of land?
Politics. Allowing townhouses to be built causes neighbour complaints with their extra residents and cars. The Lord Mayor told us these complaints couldn’t continue to go unheard.
In truth this ban applies to the Low Density zoning only and the number of possible developments was probably fairly small. But it illustrates an issue that will continue to divide us. Should we just learn to live with higher density around us (and these are 2 storey homes – not 30 storey high rise)? More homes including more affordable homes? Or does the inner city belong to those who already call it home?
In a similar theme Brisbane City Council recently adopted new minimum requirements for car park numbers. Where a new development needed to average 1.25 car spots per 2 bedroom dwelling, that’s now spiked to 2 car parks. Three bed dwellings are up from an average 1.5 to 2 dedicated car parks. And new buildings now need 0.25 visitors car parks for every dwelling, up from the previous 0.15.
Driven to change by neighbour complaints about on-street parking, Council is further restricting inner-city development. Car parking is a huge cost and design challenge for developers and these new minimums are a big increase that will, without doubt, reduce the number of dwellings built in our city. And new apartments will be dearer as a result. (Note this change does not apply to the immediate CBD and surrounds – the “city frame” area).
So we’ve given up encouraging residents to walk, ride or take public transport? Just let them have their cars inside to keep the neighbours happy – and we’ll build more roads, bridges and tunnels?!
AirBNB is the ‘poster child’ of the issue, but short-stay accommodation (overnight to a few weeks at a time) is not a new use of inner-Brisbane dwellings. What AirBNB and other webites have done is expand this far beyond serviced apartment buildings with an onsite manager and co-ordinated services for these guests. They’ve expanded it into any home – apartment, house, granny flat or spare bedroom – dropping visitors into buildings many argue are not designed to accommodate them. And these are rooms that could otherwise be occupied by more permanent residents.
Make no mistake – Brisbane City Council could limit the number of homes offered to travellers and demand they be accommodated in purpose built developments. In 2018 Los Angeles City did just that, mandating a maximum 120 days a year a home can be offered short-stay (exclusions etc applied) to preserve inner city homes for their residents. One key reason for the LA change? To help maintain affordable housing near the city.
Brisbane town planner Emmett Herps says for a short stay use (that’s defined as Short-Term Accommodation under the Brisbane City Plan 2014 and not all fall under this) approval is usually required by Brisbane City Council. “Generally speaking, Short-Term Accommodation is not preferred in the Low Density Residential Zone. The Medium and High Residential Zones anticipate Short-Term Accommodation, as does the Low-Medium Density Residential Zone where located adjacent to busy roads and services. But Council has the power to change this.”
Out of interest we’d expect more developers to actually exclude short-stay from their Council approvals in the future, as the rising tensions of permanents and shorts living alongside eachother has created clear demand for ‘AirBNB free’ buildings. Unhappy neighbours can’t turn to their body corp to stop short-stay renting, but Emmett reminds us short term accommodation isn’t likely to be a permitted use unless the original Council approval included it. “It’s worth checking and BCC can commence compliance action upon an apartment owner operating without approval”.
So please share your opinions – how should we shape the inner-Brisbane of 2050? More travellers hosted in accommodation designed for them, or continue to allow them to blend in with permanent residents? Should we encourage more dwellings near our city or just accept that we’ll need future Brisbanites to live further out?
Politically they’re not easy topics. But sometimes leadership requires tough decisions and you should give our politicians your opinions.