Housing locational disadvantages in Sydney

| January 12, 2021

Greater Sydney has been facing growing land and housing demand due to fast economic and population growth that has hard-pressed the state government to boost housing supply. As a consequence, the demographics of Greater Sydney has been transforming with speedy westwards expansion.

Greater Western Sydney is a large region within Greater Sydney that generally embraces the north-west, south-west, central-west, and far western sub-regions. It covers thirteen local government areas of Blacktown City, Blue Mountains City, Camden Council, Campbelltown City, the City of Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland Council, Fairfield City, Hawkesbury City, Liverpool City, the City of Parramatta, Penrith City, The Hills Shire and Wollondilly Shire.

The NSW urban planning policy and metropolitan strategies are dumping new housing in western Sydney, which lacks transport infrastructure, employment opportunities, and amenities and is too hot in summer.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data on the latest five financial year statistics on building approvals in Greater Sydney shows that western Sydney has been receiving most new housing.

In the financial year 2016-2017, 55,995 buildings were approved in Greater Sydney. 55.44% of the approvals were in the western Sydney region. In 2017-2018 61.30%, 2018-2019 above 70%, 2019-2020 nearly 70%, and in the current 2020-2021 financial year’s July to September around 88% dwellings were approved in western Sydney local government areas (LGAs).

Figure 1 illustrates the trends of building approvals in Greater Sydney LGAs


Generated by authors by using ABS data.

The population of Greater Sydney is anticipated to grow by 1.7 million by 2036. The NSW Government has estimated that 725,000 additional homes would be needed to accommodate the additional population according to the Greater Sydney Region Plan – A Metropolis of Three Cities in 2018. Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DoPI&E) is targeting Western Sydney for most of the new housing. DoPI&E data clearly shows that an ever-increasing percentage of housing is being allocated to the western region.

Greater Sydney Housing Supply Forecast for 2019-20 to 2023-24 by LGAs demonstrates that 61% of the new dwellings will be placed in Western Sydney LGAs whereas the percentage for Sydney East, Sydney North and Sydney South will be 17%, 12% and 10% respectively.

Figure 2 represents the Greater Sydney housing supply forecast 2019-20 to 2023-24 by LGAs


Generated by authors by using DoPI&E data.

It can be argued that higher and fast-growing housing costs in the non-western parts of Greater Sydney are increasingly limiting poorer residents of the metro to Western Sydney. Residents living in dwellings in Western Sydney face locational disadvantages of limited employment opportunities, absence of quality schools, and public transport inaccessibility. That prevents socio-economic wellbeing and vibrant lives.

In the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the Western Sydney residents are hit harder than other parts of the metro by the pandemic induced adverse impacts. COVID-19 caused extensive job losses in Greater Sydney. The COVID-19 crisis has increased unemployment in western Sydney more than the Greater Sydney average.

It is also about to surge further. COVID-19 has pushed people to work from home, and universities also switched their classes online. However, 10 to 20% of Western Sydney household cannot access the internet. Besides, Western Sydney residents have lack of technology skills and are engaged in work which cannot be done from home.

A large number of Western Sydney residents were highly stressed working and learning from home.

Due to the job losses and end of government COVID-19 financial support, many Western Sydney areas have a higher level of poverty than the recent past. Research shows, Sydney’s north and east experience the lowest rise in poverty and eight out of the 10 Australian districts likely to face the highest surges in poverty are in Sydney’s west, according to The Sydney Morning Herald of 2 October 2020.

The adverse consequences of dumping ever-increasing amounts of housing in Western Sydney cannot be ignored. To reduce the housing location related stresses in Sydney, governments must ensure more housing is provided in non-Western parts that are closer to amenities, transport, and employment and are cooler in summer.

Provision of more housing in those areas will also mitigate affordable-housing shortages and allow the essential workers to live locally. Besides, governments must ensure the provision of enough education, health, welfare and employment opportunities in the disadvantaged areas.

This article was written by Khandakar Farid Uddin and Dr Awais Piracha of Western Sydney University.  The full article can be accessed at Regions e-Zine, Issue 8: Housing Issues in Contemporary Urban Regions, published in January 2021.