TENS of thousands of new home sites will be created around Melbourne under a dramatic State Government strategy to tackle the housing affordability crisis and cope with the city’s population boom.
Premier John Brumby will announce today that all available land within Melbourne’s urban growth boundary will be zoned residential — one of the biggest land releases in the city’s history — in a bid to give more young families and first-time buyers the chance to get into the property market.
The fast-tracked home sites will be concentrated in five outer-suburban growth corridors: Wyndham and Melton-Caroline Springs in the west, Hume in the north, Whittlesea in the north-east and Casey-Cardinia in the east.
The Age believes the release will cover private land — meaning some farmers, for example, will be able to subdivide their holdings for the first time — but will not encroach on the city’s protected green wedges.
Mr. Brumby, who believes Melbourne will overtake Sydney as Australia’s biggest city by 2028, will unveil his plans hours before the Reserve Bank is expected to raise interest rates again and a day after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the Federal Government would double the national rental affordability scheme.
State cabinet decided to speed up the release of residential land after receiving what one Government insider dubbed a “big wake-up call” about the extent of Melbourne’s population boom.
Department of Treasury and Finance analysis of data from the 2006 national census shows Melbourne is on track to regain its title as Australia’s biggest city within 20 years.
With Melbourne now growing at nearly 1500 people a week, the population is expected to top 6.2 million in 2020, a decade earlier than previous estimates based on the 2001 census.
This move will put further pressure on the Government’s 2030 strategy for Melbourne’s urban growth by increasing housing density in the outer suburbs more quickly than previously planned.
The Treasury analysis shows Melbourne’s population increased by about 270,000 — one-third above forecasts — between 2001 and 2006. There were more new households — 86,613 — in Melbourne than in any other Australian city in the five years between censuses.
Mr. Brumby believes the biggest challenge is managing Victoria’s growth, so the state does not become a “victim of success”.
The Government is expected within weeks to endorse contentious plans for a multibillion-dollar tunnel under Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs to help ease traffic congestion by connecting CityLink with the Eastern Freeway, and has already announced projects valued at $5 billion to secure Melbourne’s water supply.
Mr. Brumby will use a speech today to the Urban Development Institute of Australia to paint this as a historic moment for Melbourne.
The city outgrew Sydney in the 1850s because of the gold rush and was known internationally as “Marvellous Melbourne” in the 1880s, but was overtaken by Sydney early in the 20th century.
Many commentators expected the 2000 Olympics to mark the final “victory” of Sydney over Melbourne, with some demographers predicting the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor would soon push Melbourne back to third place.
But a poll earlier this week revealed that one in five Sydneysiders were considering leaving the city. Among the main reasons were the high cost of living, traffic congestion and overcrowding.
The Premier argues that the Bracks/Brumby Government’s pro-families policies of the past eight years — including reinvesting in schools, hospitals and police — have helped transform Melbourne once again into a people magnet.
In the 1980s and early ’90s Victoria was losing families to other states. Now it is consistently recording net gains in interstate and overseas migration.
In a bid to portray himself as the leader for the times, Mr. Brumby will say the past decade was for rebuilding Victoria, but the next decade is for action.
He will say the state’s rapid growth is a sign of success but the challenge is to prevent it from undermining Victoria’s famous “liveability”.
Today’s speech is the first in a series expected this year to outline what the Government plans to do to ensure Victoria has sufficient services and infrastructure for future growth.
They will focus on transport congestion, regional Victoria, preventive health, climate change and “social inclusion”.
On housing affordability, Mr. Brumby will release today a report showing Melbourne now has only about eight years of zoned residential land supply — compared to the 10 years forecast just 12 months ago.
He will argue that housing affordability is mainly a Commonwealth issue because it is governed largely by interest rates and inflation.
But he will acknowledge that the states can help by unlocking land.