It’s a common theme discussed and reported throughout the community and it is a very important one, but there seems to be little being suggested that could help manage the issue of affordable sustainable housing.
Queensland residents living in our cities and towns have traditionally been used to living on big blocks in leafy suburbs close to where work is available and with necessary amenities nearby. This traditional way of life is changing; particularly in Brisbane.
As our population grows; more and more people are forced to live further out on our urban fringes where the more affordable housing is being produced. There is very little affordable housing being produced close to the city centre simply because the land value in and around the city centre rises as this property becomes more scarce and more sought after (a symptom of a growing city). This urban sprawl has become a major planning problem for our state and local Governments and addressing it, it seems, is very complicated.
One answer to the problem is to allow higher density development within the city. Smart planners are allowing higher density development alongside rail corridors, for example, making good use of this existing transport infrastructure. The problem of affordability still remains however and developers are finding it increasingly difficult to make projects viable with the ever-increasing cost of land and building construction making redevelopment economically prohibitive in many of these areas.
Adding to this problem is the fact that many potential redevelopment sites are off limits because of demolition controls designed to protect older homes in so-called character areas. These controls are actually contributing to the loss of our character homes because when these houses deteriorate to a point where it’s not viable to restore them they can then be demolished under the laws designed to protect them. There is little wonder then that in some demolition control areas where redevelopment is popular that lovely old character houses are being left to deteriorate to a stage where a permit can be issued to demolish them, thus freeing up those sites for redevelopment.
When a house has deteriorated to a stage where it’s no longer viable to live in or restore, the only option left is demolition. A better solution is to allow those same houses to be removed and reused somewhere more appropriate before they deteriorate to a stage when the only option left is for them to be demolished and lost forever. When a house is removed and re-sited elsewhere nearly all of its original materials are recycled and used again, plus the house retains its character and a significant portion of its historical value too. A demolished house largely ends up in landfill, with a small amount of material reused or incorporated into other houses during renovation etc. Demolition does nothing to retain the character or historical significance of the houses it occurs to. Changes to the Demolition Controls would need to be made to turn this around because house relocation is treated the same as demolition, despite the fact that the end results are vastly different.
We should allow our lovely old character homes a chance of a new life at another location for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Too many are being lost to demolition because of a poorly thought out system designed to protect them, but which is failing them badly.
With so much property locked up and essentially off limits to redevelopment due to the demolition controls, there is little left for developers to choose from making the remaining development sites scarce and more expensive to obtain, adding to the housing affordability problem.
If we want to limit urban sprawl, make better use of existing infrastructure and make our cities more liveable and more affordable in a growing population environment; we need to embrace responsible higher density development and make it easier, not harder to do that. We need to re-look at the laws controlling demolition and house recycling to find better ways to make use of our existing housing stock.
The modern lifestyles and living requirements for those living close to the centre of the city have largely outgrown the modest 2 or 3 bedroom Queenslander home and trying to keep them as and where they were 60 to 100 years ago is short sighted. Trying to keep the city as it once was might just prove too costly in terms of housing affordability, and the social, economical and environmental costs created by urban sprawl.
We have an opportunity to protect our older homes by allowing them to be moved to locations more suited to their use into the future. Many people living on the fringes of pre 1946 areas would love to replace their less desirable existing post war home with a lovely old Queenslander from one of their neighbouring suburbs; and many are doing just that. The problem is that because of the shortage of old Queenslanders available for removal they have become more expensive and harder to obtain, forcing many to abandon the idea and build a new home instead.
The ideal scenario would go like this. An old pre 1946 Queenslander in say Norman Park is bought from a developer and allowed to be moved to a new owner’s site in say Camp Hill which currently has a post war home on it. The post war home is bought by a third person and removed to another site further out. The original site in Norman Park is developed responsibly into a number of dwelling units that are affordable and more in keeping with the use of the area. Camp Hill benefits from the addition of an original old Queenslander and its new owner renovates and improves it to suit his lifestyle whilst retaining its character. Brisbane has retained the historical significance of the character home albeit in another location and two buildings have been recycled and used again.
As the city grows this process could be repeated indefinitely with that same old Queenslander perhaps being moved again at some time in the future when higher density development moves further out into the post war areas.
Multiple story high-rise developments are not the answer to our cities growing pains. It’s time for State and Local Governments to get together and solve problems like this one and promote responsible recycling efforts including house relocation that can help save our planet and save our older homes for future generations.