Why was the eastern suburbs spared in the housing blitz?

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Industry groups have questioned why parts of the inner west and east have been left off the Minns government’s plans for a major density boost across Sydney, while mayors have warned its plans to overhaul rezonings at Metro and heavy rail stations could delay thousands of homes already in the planning system.

On Tuesday the Herald revealed the government will rezone land around eight Metro and heavy rail stations to provide for 45,000 new homes by 2027, while also amending planning rules near another 31 train stations around Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle as part of its signature housing push.

Roseville Station, one of 31 heavy rail stations where the government plans to change zoning rules to allow for more density.Credit: Steven Siewert

The plans, which were accidentally published online, also confirm the government will proceed with the Metro West project between the CBD and Westmead after The Bays station was included as one of the priority precincts.

The eight priority density sites include Kellyville and Bella Vista in the north-west, and Crows Nest on the north shore. The mayors of those two councils, Peter Gangemi in The Hills and Zoe Baker in North Sydney, questioned how the government’s plans would impact land already set for increased density.

On Tuesday, The Hills agreed to enter a planning agreement with Landcom over government land at Kellyville and Bella Vista which is zoned for an additional 5700 homes. The precinct surrounding the two Metro stations is zoned to take a total of 8400 homes over the next five years.

Gangemi said the government’s leaked announcement had raised significant doubts about how the government would progress those plans.

“This land has already been rezoned by government and is nearing the point in the process where construction of homes can commence,” he said.

“To completely re-examine and go back to the start will only push the construction of new housing further down the road.”

Similarly, in North Sydney, where the council has planned for about 6600 new homes surrounding Crows Nest and St Leonards to be built by 2036, Baker questioned the industry’s capacity to deliver the housing currently planned for the area.

“I think some of it is fanciful,” she said. “The government’s plan said it would receive development applications for their precincts by the middle of 2025. Who are the landowners they’re so confident will be lodging these applications on time?

“It just beggars belief they can make these statements and people would believe that just because you rezone something three years later you’ll have buildings on the ground.”

Gangemi too questioned whether the government’s accidental leak would further push up house prices in the 1.2-kilometre radius it plans to rezone, saying it would “disincentivise developers from building the homes already approved”.

“You’d already be hard-pressed to find a home in Bella Vista Waters under $3 million. How will it be feasible to develop this land now that the Minns government has sent land values even further through the roof?” he said.

While the plan has been welcomed by most industry groups, some developers questioned why parts of the inner west and eastern suburbs have been spared in the density push.

Describing the leaked government plans as a “blessing in disguise”, Urban Taskforce chief executive Tom Forrest welcomed the announcement, but said he had concerns about the slow time frame and the exclusion of areas in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and north shore.

Roseville made the list of suburbs targeted by new housing rules.Credit: Steven Siewert

“Lots of planning work has already been done on Crows Nest, Bella Vista, Bays West and Macquarie Park. The work on these station precincts should be finished by March 2024 at the latest,” he said.

“We are a little bemused that Edgecliff, Bondi Junction and Chatswood were not on the initial list of targeted stations.”

The NSW Property Council executive director, Katie Stevenson, said the plan “lacked the ambition” needed to overcome the housing shortage and failed to take advantage of locations with transport capacity including on the City and Southwest Metro line and the Northwest line.

The second tier of the government’s transport development plan included Marrickville, Dulwich Hill, Canterbury and Wiley Park. Stevenson said that the government should have rezoned “every station on the Sydenham to Bankstown Line” to maximise the potential housing boost.

Councils included in the second stage of the announcement questioned why the government hadn’t consulted them in the months leading up to the announcement. The Ku-Ring-Gai mayor, Sam Ngai, said the “secrecy” surrounding the proposal meant it was impossible for councils to progress their own plans.

“We don’t even know what the future population will be because we don’t have housing targets. We aren’t just opposed to more housing, but we need the government to be upfront and on board with providing the infrastructure we need,” he said.

The government has refused to respond to the leaked plans. On Wednesday Health Minister Ryan Park said of the leak: “These things happen”.

“What I do know is that we’ve got a premier and planning and housing ministers who are really determined to address the housing crisis. And I know that we’ll be having more to say about this over the next few days.”

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