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Urban Consolidation: Current Developments

Urban Consolidation: Current Developments

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 23/1997 by Stewart Smith
Demographics in Australia have changed dramatically over the last 25 years. In the 1990's, the traditional family of two parents and dependent children is now in the minority and accounts for only 25% of all households. More than half of all households comprise only one or two people, and the number of elderly people will increase by over 50% in the next twenty years. In the light of these statistics, it is noteworthy that more than 66% of dwellings in Sydney comprise the traditional detached family house (page 1).

These changing demographic patterns, as well as a growing population, help account for the fact that Sydney will, on present trends, require an additional 520,000 new dwellings between 1991 and 2021. In response to these projections, State governments have pursued policies of urban consolidation.

Urban consolidation is the process of increasing or maintaining the density of housing in established residential areas (page 3). The ultimate aim of consolidation is to reduce development on the fringe areas of the city. Arguments for and against urban consolidation centre on three main issues: economic, environmental and social. It is apparent that one of the driving forces of urban consolidation in the later half of the 1990's is to help reduce air pollution in Sydney, especially that affecting Sydney's western suburbs.

Commentators have noted that to achieve urban consolidation goals, land prices, distribution of employment and access to transport are key factors that influence where people choose to live (page 5). Local government is responsible for day to day land use planning and housing management. It is argued by some that historically, councils have entrenched the idea of a single dwelling on a quarter acre block through regulatory fiat (page 6). The policies of State governments towards urban consolidation targets has been of great significance to councils and their land use planning procedures since the mid 1980's (page 7).

With the election of the Carr ALP government in early 1995, previous State government policies on urban consolidation were repealed, and councils were invited to prepare their own residential development strategies (page 12). The strategies were to identify urban consolidation opportunities, and if the strategy was accepted by the State government the council would be exempt from the newly drafted State Environmental Planning Policy No 53: Metropolitan Residential Development (page 13). SEPP 53 was released in September 1997. Of the 53 councils in the greater metropolitan area of Sydney, 36 have prepared strategies that meet the government's urban consolidation goals, whilst the remainder have been given an additional six months to prepare an acceptable strategy or their council area will be subject to SEPP 53.