The Government of Western Australia’s Department of Housing and the Western Australian Planning Commission launched a report in May 2013 with the support of the Planning Institute and the Property Council of Australia looking at population growth in the state.

The research was conducted by Curtin University and award-winning Australian architecture, urban planning and landscape design firm Hames Sharley.

Western Australia’s population boomed between 2011 and 2012, and Perth is experiencing unprecedented growth with an increase of 65,400 inhabitants over that period. The Peel region, located 75 kilometres south of the state capital, is also facing dramatic population growth and demographic change.

According to the report, the number of lone person households will grow by 73 per cent over the next 20 years. It is therefore essential to analyse whether the current and projected housing capacity will be able to meet the demands of future residents of Perth and Peel.

The urban pattern that has been in place in Perth over the past 150 years is becoming outdated and the city is beginning to suffer social, economical and environmental problems. Most of these are caused because the residential zones are spread over large areas and the commercial and business areas are all concentrated in the city centre. Traffic congestion is increasing and infrastructure costs are rising as the population continues growing and expanding, generating negative environmental impacts.

Kwinana Freeway

The Kwinana Freeway looking north towards the city

The challenge facing urban designers, architects and the government is in creating a housing strategy that can meet the needs of growing population while remaining affordable. The report offers information obtained through research and surveys which shows preferred types of housing, the housing demand against the currently available stock, and the actual household budgets of citizens.

The report finds that affordability is the most important determinant for buyers, with location another key factor. While survey respondents stated a clear preference for Perth’s inner city, only half can afford to live there. Moreover, the survey indicated apartments are not the preferred housing type, but notes that many will still rent provided they are assured of living in a good location at an affordable rate.

The paper suggests that overlapping users’ preferences with what they can actually afford will result in a much more compact city with great proportion of the population living in the inner central region.

Beaufort Street Perth

Residential Development at Beaufort Street, Perth

In response to the high demand, the development industry is planning to boost the production of small semi-detached apartments as part of master-planned communities. The main challenge is in creating well-designed and well-located medium density properties for under $300,000 to accommodate low to moderate income earners requests.

The idea of cost-efficient homes, of course, stretches far beyond Australia. Architects and designers around the world are developing projects to approach this issue and are leaning toward modular designs and prefabricated buildings as a solution.

For example, a neighbourhood of affordable architect-designed kit houses was recently launched in the Netherland. The initiative, named I Build Affordable in Nijmegen, enables first-time buyers to buy a well designed prefabricated house.