Could Suburban Business Districts Help Solve Housing Affordability?

The decentralisation of city business districts to the suburbs reduces the pressure on transportation and housing affordability around city centres — and while city centres bring the most success to their states, suburban business districts must not be neglected.

Suburban Alliance Executive Director Ross Elliott said by growing suburban business districts and providing quality alternatives for business activity across multiple suburban centres, we pave the way for people to find more affordable housing closer to work.

“Putting all the high-end jobs into one place (the city centre), means [the] real estate all around it becomes prohibitively expensive and we end up manufacturing problems of worsening housing affordability, speculative and over heated housing markets, excessive congestion and prohibitively costly infrastructure projects needed to cope with it, as well as an increasing divide between the inner city haves and the suburban have nots,” Elliott said.

Perth, for example, is a city which has previously relied on its centre for its success, but many industry professionals like Planning Institute of Australia WA executive officer Emma de Jager say decision-makers need to focus their efforts on transforming our suburbs into liveable, successful business districts.

We need to bring jobs into the suburbs and develop them into places that people want to work and live, which in turn reduces the pressure on transportation and housing affordability around the city centre.”

The challenge for the planning community is to grasp the opportunity and apply the lessons learnt from inner urban renewal to the renewal of suburban business districts.

Technology is also a big driver of the suburban business districts, providing less of a need for physical proximity to clients or allied businesses.

Elliot reckons the success of a suburban business district comes down to three key factors:

  • The proximity of the University to the business district
  • The proximity of public open space, and
  • The proximity of the hospital.

“The idea that the suburbs should be mainly dormitories and the CBD should be where most people work simply will not work: we cannot afford the infrastructure needed to create such large, mono-centric cities,” he said.

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