An urban planner and Churchill Fellow says the Gold Coast needs a shift in planning and community attitudes to better manage the city’s housing affordability issues.

Martin Garred said zoning regulations go back “to the Australian dream” where people wanted a big house with a washing line in the garden.

“There’s a growing generational and economic divide between people who can afford a home and those who can’t,” he said.

“It’s affecting people he’s never touched before.”

Gold Coast City Council planning committee chairman Cameron Caldwell said the Australian dream was certainly changing.

“Everyone’s version of a house is quite different these days,” he said.

Martin Garred says a lack of supply worsens housing affordability.(Provided: Churchill Trust)

“The new generations want to ensure that they are well located near services, jobs and good recreational activities.

“That means they actually want to downsize the backyard, maybe down to a yard in a duplex.”

But despite a “very strong narrative around high-rise and unit developments”, Cr Caldwell said the council was focused on prioritizing single-family homes.

“Different Ways of Living”

Mr Garred said the Gold Coast could not afford to keep building.

“We have the ocean on one side and the hinterland on the other, we have nowhere to go,” he said.

“We have to look at different ways of living.”

An aerial view of the Gold Coast canal system
Further high-rise developments are expected along the coastline in the coming years.(Provided: Gold Coast City Council)

Mr. Garred studied the US cities of Portland and Minneapolis, which changed zoning laws to allow duplexes to be built on land previously reserved for a single house.

“It’s really like a salt and pepper effect,” he said.

“You get a few in your neighborhood, but not a street full of duplexes.

“In most parts of the Gold Coast, 60-70% you can only build one house.”

houses and water lake
Single-family homes remain a council priority.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

But Cr Caldwell said the community would expect suburban housing to continue.

“Would there be an appetite in the future to remove the sanctity of individual dwellings?” he said.

“Maybe at some point, beyond my life, it could happen [but] short term, here on the Gold Coast we like things the way they are.”

“Inclusion area”

Mr Garred said inclusive zoning would require a certain percentage of new developments to be set aside for lower-cost housing.

“If you think of the number of skyscrapers being built on the Gold Coast, if we had 20% of each of those providing affordable housing, there is a very big opportunity there,” he said.

“It’s something that hasn’t really been used in Australia before.

view of the building with many balconies
High density development is common in parts of the Gold Coast.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

“[It] has generally been relatively controversial because of the impact it has on development economics.”

But Cr Caldwell said the policy was very interventionist.

“The best way to manage the approach to affordable housing is to make sure we put more housing in some of the suburbs that support this type of housing,” he said.

“Premium beachfront locations are priced differently perhaps from places like Southport West, Labrador and Biggera Waters.”

Demographic pressures

The population of the Gold Coast is expected to reach around 1 million by 2041 according to state government growth targets.

158,900 new homes are to be built, including 127,900 in already urbanized areas.

Mr Garred said the Gold Coast needed at least 5,000 new homes built a year.

“Until recently, we weren’t even close to reaching halfway to that goal,” he said.

construction site at sunset
Demand for accommodation on the Gold Coast has exceeded supply.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)

Runaway Bay, Labrador, Biggera Waters and Southport have been identified as targeted growth areas for higher density developments under proposed changes to the council’s planning scheme.

But Mr Garred said it had been “really difficult” for the community to accept.

Last year, the council reduced proposed densities for these suburbs by 41% after four rounds of community consultation, pending state government approval.

Sign indicating who is really profiting from the 4 story overdevelopment
Some Gold Coast communities have expressed opposition to the development proposals.(ABC Gold Coast: Kimberly Bernard)

No respite in sight

According to the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, the Gold Coast’s vacancy rate fell from a high of 5.2% in June 2011 to 0.6% in September 2022.

The median rent for a home hit $868 a week, up $248 from 2019, according to CoreLogic.

In mid-2022, the median home price was $875,881, a 32% jump from the previous 12 months.

While the state government has doubled funding for social and affordable housing, CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless said the impact won’t be felt in the market until 2024.

“We expect migration, especially net migration abroad, [to be] rebound and which has a direct and immediate impact on rental demand,” he said.

“Interstate migration remains very strong, with internal migration rates from other parts of Queensland also appearing to favor coastal markets in South East Queensland.”