Grants could increase urban sprawl

The WA Government’s aim to stimulate the housing and construction industry through the Building Bonus Grant but could worsen Perth’s urban sprawl, experts say.

The initiative will provide a $20,000 grant to people who build a new house or buy an existing single-story home under construction.

This scheme can be used on top of the recent Federal governments $25,000 HomeBuilder Initiative, as well as the existing First Home Owner Grant.

Curtin University urban planning expert Shane Greive says the initiative will encourage families to build in the outer suburbs.

“These grants are destined for moderate income demographics, in which the outskirts of town are the only places they can afford to build, adding to urban sprawl,” he says.

“Urban sprawl uses up conspicuous amounts of land, displaces good ecology and increases the amount of transport and time from one place to another.”

Dr Greive says there is a split within the State Government regarding Perth’s sprawling issue.

“Half the State Government are saying that urban sprawl is no good and we must increase housing density down town, but the other half emphasises that we need to create jobs and promote development on the fringe,” he says.

Housing Industry Association executive director Cath Hart says the housing and construction industries are pleased by the State Government’s decision about the Building Bonus Grant, alongside the Federal Initiative.

“Before the grants were announced, home dwelling commencements in Australia were at a 20 year low and we effectively went to a historic high overnight,” she says.

“You can use a $20,000 grant that will unlock about $250,000 in private sector spending from consumers, so from that perspective it is a really good investment.

“It helps us achieve a soft landing and sustains our recovery after COVID.”

Ms Hart says the pandemic has emphasised the need to protect the workforce and the livelihoods that go with it and does not agree urban sprawl is an issue.

“I wouldn’t go so far to say that I believe urban sprawl is a problem in Perth and Peel Region. I think the bigger challenge we have is that, before the grants were out, building was at a 20 year low,” she says.

“We don’t have that much activity that we are going to sprawl out really far in the coming years. The focus is really on the recovery.”

First home buyer Melanie Gordon says the Building Bonus Grant was the final push she needed to build her own house.

“I managed to get around $55,000 in grants to build a really nice, modern house out in Alkimos,” she said.

“If it wasn’t for the Building Bonus Grant and the other government grants, it would have taken me years to buy.”

Miss Gordon will have to travel an additional 20 minutes to work every day and is aware of the increased fuel costs.

“The fact that I can build my own home, near good schools, shops and the beach, means I’m not really listening to the environmental and economic costs of living in the outer suburbs.”

Categories: General