Catherine Cashmore is a market analyst with extensive experience in all aspects relating to property acquisition.

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Catherine Cashmore

10 December 2012

Building more outer Melbourne suburbs without infrastructure a foolhardy move

Building more outer Melbourne suburbs without infrastructure a foolhardy move

Two articles that caught my attention last week were Chris Vedelago’s excellent piece on Melbourne’s outer-suburban estates where buyers who previously committed to a house-and-land purchase using a “holding deposit” of some $500 to $1,000 (or in some cases 5%) were cutting their loses and cancelling projects following an inability to gain finance as a result of the post-boom slump – an inevitable consequence of short-term first-home buyer grants and incentives.

The other was Roz Hansen’s excellent speech – originally delivered at The Sambell Oration to the Brotherhood of St Laurence ” entitled “A Tale of Two Melbournes? The Disparities of Place and How to Bridge The Divide” and printed in Property Observer last week.

Vedelago’s article pointed out the harsh consequence an inevitable rush to market induces when foolhardy first-home buyer grants are introduced and subsequently scrapped in an attempt to boost new home sales.

According to the report (in which the research was derived from the “specialised urban research organisation” Research4), developers have had nearly 1,800 lots returned this year as plans to build new homes were scrapped.

Other data from Research4 indicates that a drop in Melbourne’s land sales accounted for an 83% overall fall in the national number of land transactions from the peak of the second quarter 2010 to first quarter of 2012.

On the face of it, the data is shocking, however it’s not surprising. The 2009-10 boom in land sales was driven wholly by a rollerball of acquisitions induced principally by first-home owners taking advantage of increased state grants and the additional federal first-home owner boost –not to mention the low interest rate environment.

The effect subsequently inflated Melton’s population by some 7,535 new residents and increased the median lot price by a lofty 60%, which, according to ‘Research4’, made it the “fifth most expensive land market out of 33 submarkets across Australia”.

The foolhardy nature of inducing so many residents to move into a sparsely facilitated suburbs, lacking in essential infrastructure – and subsequently abandoning them in “never never land” as grants are scrapped, causing land prices to fall sharply, seems to be of no consequence to state governments, which are busy introducing yet another round of incentives to stimulate (prop up) the construction industry in outer suburbia.

Hansen voiced thoughts I have shared in many of my columns for Property Observer – principally the poor planning and failed “infrastructure” promises that equate to municipalities where residents are more likely to suffer health issues such as eating disorders and depression accumulating from inadequately integrated and facilitated communities.

As I have previously mentioned, unless we address the core issues behind our new greenfield estates, recent history will keep repeating itself and the outer suburbs will (for want of a better word) become the relative ‘ghettos’  of Melbourne town.

It would be far more sensible to build up already facilitated satellite towns such as Geelong and Ballarat in Victoria as an example, and continue to extend our train and public transport amenities, than create new suburbs of sprawling Mc Mansions where the trade-off of a bigger house is of little consequence once you step outside the front door.


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