Brisbane City Council is enjoying overwhelming support for a new Suburban Renewal Precincts strategy despite not being able to identify which areas would be targeted.
- Brisbane City Council’s new policy to build high-density housing in underused commercial sites has been described as “exciting”
- Academic Thomas Sigler says any development would need to be multi-use to ensure good amenity
- REIQ boss Antonia Mercorella says commercial and industrial areas shouldn’t be completely ignored
As part of the council’s budget this week, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner announced a blitz on the suburbs promising at least 80 per cent of spending would be directed outside the CBD.
He also announced a new urban renewal program to transform vacant and disused commercial or industrial areas into high density residential hotspots which could house thousands amid the city’s increasingly constrained housing market.
New sites were yet to be identified but Mr Schrinner said they would be revitalised in the way suburbs such as South Bank, Woolloongabba, Teneriffe and Newstead had over the past 15 years.
The policy was part of a blitz on housing affordability, which included increasing the rates of airbnb property owners.
“We’re leading the charge in suburban renewal …which is about identifying those maybe smaller areas across the city where you can have residential communities growing,” he said.
“You’ve seen industries changing and one of those industries that has changed significantly is the car sales industry.”
He said a lot of used car yards had closed down or moved.
“That’s a lot of space that could be potentially turned into residential or mixed use areas,” he said.
Mr Schrinner promised to identify a “number of locations” and start planning “quite quickly”.
He said consultation still had to be undertaken with neighbourhood residents and the state government.
He said zoning would be modified to allow new mixed use communities to pop up.
“Logan Rd at Woolloongabba and Buranda used to have car yards, there are now residential buildings going up.
“We’re looking for areas with good access to public transport and infrastructure.”
Policy could ensure choice
Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Queensland branch and not-for-profit advocacy group Suburban Futures welcomed the fresh policy.
An UDIA Queensland spokeswoman said the strategy painted an “exciting vision for our city” and would “play a part in ensuring we have sufficient housing to support a growing population”.
“There is no single solution to the current housing affordability and rental supply crisis but council’s budget is a step in the right direction and we look forward to engaging with council on the suburban precinct planning initiative to ensure the supporting process is effective in bringing housing supply on efficiently,” the spokeswoman said.
Suburban Futures co-founder Steve de Nys said about 80 per cent of residents lived and worked in Brisbane’s suburbs.
He said the renewed focus on suburbs would lead to more employment opportunities closer to where people lived, reducing congestion and travel times.
Mr de Nys also said “quality of life opportunities could not just be confined to wealthy inner urban residents, but made available to all residents, regardless of where they live and work”.
Steer clear of single-use development
“Build, build, build”, was the message from University of Queensland researcher and economic and urban geographer Thomas Sigler, who enthusiastically backed the council’s vision for the suburbs.
But Dr Sigler recommended a mix of housing for the precincts earmarked for an overhaul.
“All housing is good housing right now, as long as it’s well-planned and not single-use only,” he said.
“Medium density housing, such as tastefully built townhouses, are a good addition to the mix. The devil will be in the detail.”
Dr Sigler said isolated apartment developments without a good land use mix often resulted in poor outcomes for residents.
Residential balancing act
Real Estate Institute of Queensland boss Antonia Mercorella said identifying the right areas and then finding developers and builders to complete projects in a timely manner would be a challenge for the council.
She said the concept of transforming unused or underused commercial space was not a new one and had been discussed by the institute, Brisbane City Council and state government representatives as the COVID pandemic took hold in 2020.
Ms Mercorella said the three organisations considered the opportunity to turn the spaces into housing as strict stay at home orders rendered business premises empty.
“I think in this day and age we need to be adaptable, we need to think outside the box, and the idea that there are areas around Brisbane the could be used, like the Moorooka Magic Mile, is good.
“They don’t make new land, it doesn’t just emerge, so if there’s an opportunity to take some sites and reinvigorate and transform them into residential housing, that would help.”
The need for commercial and industrial premises would not disappear, however, Ms Mercorella warned.
“We’re all going back to work now, we’re still spending some time in our offices albeit in a flexible way, so we need to ensure we’re retaining the right level of commercial premises too,” she said.
“We are shifting the way we’re doing things.”