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Concerns over housing targets as applications to build new residential units drop off

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A dearth of applications to build apartments on the Sunshine Coast has raised questions about how the region can possibly house the burgeoning population in years to come.

Only 11 new material change of use applications for multiple residential dwelling applications have been lodged with the Sunshine Coast Council since the beginning of the year. The tally excludes a hotel project for Caloundra.

The 11 projects, if approved, would add 145 units to those already built or approved on the Sunshine Coast, and some of the new units could be used for short-term, rather than permanent, accommodation if the owners choose.

If the Coast’s population continues to grow by 2.6 per cent annually, as it has for the past 10 years, between 8000 and 9000 more people will be looking for somewhere to live in the area in the next 12 months.

Housing Industry Australia Queensland executive director Michael Roberts described the lack of unit development on the Sunshine Coast as “a worry”.

Mr Roberts said the drop-off in unit applications on the Coast was concerning given the state government had a target of 45,000 homes a year, and only 20,000 were likely to be built this year.

“If we’re going to make a dent in the demand for housing, we need to do something,” he said.

“We need more density in building. We need more high-rise and we need more low-rise if we’re going to have a hope of building 45,000 homes a year.”

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Mr Roberts said a variety of housing was essential to cater for all ages and budgets.

“It’s not hard to imagine in 20 years’ time that housing on the Sunshine Coast will be so expensive that all the young people have moved away,” he said.

“You’ll have the same problem they have in Noosa. You’ll have no one to work in the tourism and hospitality because they won’t be able to afford to live on the Sunshine Coast.”

Mr Roberts said developers would be building units if they could and laid the blame for the drop-off at the foot of the council and planning scheme.

“You can’t tell me that the good developers up there wouldn’t have looked at every block up there for sites that they can make work. If they aren’t building units, it’s because of a lack of sites that they can make work,” he said.

The number of units in the pipeline is dropping off.

He said the questions needed to be asked of the Sunshine Coast Council and other councils about what they were doing in their planning schemes to get more units built.

“The answer is, they haven’t done anything about it and they’re not that interested in it,” he said.

Developer Grant Kennedy said construction costs had affected unit development in the last 18 months to two years but while those pressures had started to ease, finding sites was an issue.

Mr Kennedy said medium-density sites in areas where units were in demand were becoming hard to find.

He said the coastal strip south of the Maroochy River was perfect for increased density because of the proximity of shopping, hospitals, other services and infrastructure, and the beach, but there was not much happening apart from duplexes.

“There are some sites in Caloundra but a lot of Caloundra, particularly around Kings Beach, is built out,” he said.

“Most of Moffat Beach and Shelley Beach, they are all housing and that’s it.”

He said Buderim, Mooloolaba and Mountain Creek would all be suitable for increased density “but they all have protected housing overlays on them”.

Mr Kennedy said units, particularly low-rise, could be done very well, without negative impact, and homeowners needed to accept units in their neighbourhoods.

Fiona Caniglia, chief executive officer of Q Shelter, the state’s peak housing and homelessness body, said increased residential density in areas with public transport and amenities was essential to house the growing population.

“We certainly do speak to the subject of medium and high density. We won’t the hit the (housing) target if we don’t have medium density in the right places, and high density as well, and that requires a community commitment,” she said.

“When you look at the history of these things, the community really has a part to play.

“People with houses, we have to work with them so they understand the needs of people who don’t have homes.”

Mr Roberts said the new Sunshine Coast planning scheme, currently in draft form, was an opportunity to increase density in suitable areas but he doubted the new council would be willing to make drastic change.

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