■ WATCH THE VIDEO:
Sure, it sounded like a set-up. But at 8:12am on the day our reporter was due to shoot Dean Bellis and Mel Azzopardi at their new block at Greenway, Dean texted to ask permission to propose to Mel DURING the shoot!
Of course, we said yes. And hoped that Mel would, too — we didn't exactly want to publish a rejection!
Mel had no idea what was coming. We interviewed them both about their choice of housing estate, their block and what they might build on it, and suddenly Dean dropped to his knees and, well, here's what happened . . .
Send Dean and Mel your best wishes! Login and comment at the bottom of this page. They would love to hear from you.
WHAT exactly are homebuyers seeking and why do they end up at masterplanned housing estates?
Interestingly, the locations of most estates are not homebuyers’ first choice. They’d much rather live closer to the city, by and large, because that’s where the bulk of jobs are, not to mention such things as nightlife and entertainment.
So says Awais Piracha, the director of the Geography and Urban Studies academic program and the acting director at the Urban Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney.
This centre researches housing and transport in the context of urban planning in Sydney’s west.
The fact is people are flocking to masterplanned estates on the far outskirts of greater Sydney.
‘‘The land was 10 to 20 per cent cheaper than elsewhere. I leave home at 4am and work at 3pm and still it takes 90 minutes — and it’ll get worse.’’Jai Gaibisso, homebuyer
Said Stockland’s Greg Spears: ‘‘At Elara [at Marsden Park, Blacktown] we have so far released Stage1 with 51 lots and Stage 2 with 48 lots. Both stages sold out on the day they were released.’’
This is the general rule across the board, not the exception.
Said Doctor Piracha: ‘‘We’ve researched this and we found in general the No.1 reason is people want to live as close to the city as they can get. And they can’t afford to live very close.’’
Then other contributing factors come into play.
‘‘Particularly in the north-west, there are perceived to be better-quality schools. People’s first preference is for ‘better’ schools which are closer to the city and the lifestyle which is found closer to the city.
‘‘Driving to Mascot isn’t too bad ’cos I travel at odd hours but [wife] Shelley’s in HR at Olympic Park and driving home can be an issue. She won’t use the new train. She’d have to take three trains and it’d take a lot longer.’’Dean Ryder, homebuyer
''Young people don’t want to drive like their parents did; they’re fast losing interest in their cars.
‘‘But we all can’t live in leafy suburbs close to the city where property prices keep going up. The new Planning Minister Pru Goward talks about this and says the days of ‘entrenchment of privilege’ are over.’’ [The minister explains this at length next week in the conclusion of this series.]
There is opposition to high-density housing. ‘‘Yes, so just where will people live? The previous government tended to favour 30 per cent greenfield development of new housing on the city fringe and 70 per cent brown-field development, or in-fill development — for example converting industrial sites.
‘‘But from about 1990 to 2000 we found the actual experience was that more than 80 per cent of development was brownfield; less than 20 per cent was greenfield. All due to market preferences.’’
‘‘The problem remains — where will people find jobs and how will they get to them?’’Dr Awais Piracha, director, Urban Studies, UWS
And there are two distinct pools of homebuyers: ‘‘We have natural growth and we also have immigration.
‘‘We have the emergence of second-generation aspirational migrants; people who first lived in Blacktown or rented at Parramatta, Mount Druitt or Rooty Hill. They now want ‘better’ houses in ‘better’ suburbs.’’
Another factor contributing to the push to the city outskirts is the influx of foreign money, specifically from mainland China.
Earlier this year, the Herald reported: ‘‘Close to one-fifth of new properties in Sydney are being bought by wealthy Chinese investors and the flood of money is set to continue.’’
This was based on Credit Suisse estimates, relying on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Foreign Investment Review Board.
Credit Suisse told the Herald: ‘‘There are currently 1.1 million millionaires in China who could easily afford properties in Australia’s two most expensive markets [Sydney and Melbourne].’’
Proving the point, Credit Suisse said wealthy Chinese buyers bought $24 billion of Australian housing in the past seven years and are expected to spend an extra $44 billion over the next seven years.
‘‘A generation of Australians are being priced out of the property market.’’Hasan Tevfik and Damien Boey, market analysts
Analysts Hasan Tevfik and Damien Boey concluded: ‘‘A generation of Australians are being priced out of the property market.’’
Continued Dr Piracha: ‘‘Sydney is an important preference for the Chinese. This adds to demand, prices go up. People have to buy wherever they can. And housing lots are getting smaller; instead of 600 square metres they’re now 400 to 450 square metres. And the roads are narrower.
‘‘Indeed, the biggest concerns are transport and jobs. So many jobs are based at North Ryde, North Sydney and the city. Maybe the North West Rail Link will solve the transport problem for some. But what if you live at Marsden Park, for example? You’ll have to use Richmond Road that goes to Blacktown and then onto the motorway. It’s a main artery and it’s already choked to capacity.’’
Similarly the M4 and M5 in peak hour. ‘‘If you’re on them in the mornings you won’t be going anywhere soon.’’
‘‘So many jobs are at North Ryde, North Sydney and the city. The North West Rail Link may help some but what if you live at Marsden Park? You’ll have to use Richmond Road that goes to Blacktown and then onto the motorway — a main artery and it’s already choked.’’Dr Awais Piracha, director, Urban Studies, UWS
Likewise, those working at the ever-growing north-west business district at Bella Vista struggle on the roads each morning; the ever-coming North West Rail Link will be a boon to Norwest workers and residents at nearby Bella Vista Waters and Edgewater estates who need to get to work but they won’t be catching a train to or from Bella Vista station until 2019.
‘‘The problem remains: where will people find jobs and how will they get to them?
‘‘We also found the north-west estates like The Ponds [and Bella Vista Waters and Edgewater] are more popular; Ropes Crossing [North St Marys] and Jordan Springs [North Penrith] are not selling as fast.
''People still want to live closer to the city where socio-economic conditions are higher. Ropes Crossing and Jordan Springs are surrounded by poorer suburbs which makes them less attractive.’’
When will it reach crunch point? ‘‘Five years, maybe. I'ill be terrible then. If you live at Ropes Crossing the nearest train is St Marys which isn’t close and isn’t safe at night. Besides, the train will only take you to a few places and many people don’t work in the city anyway.’’Dr Awais Piracha, director, Urban Studies, UWS
So when will the problem of jobs and transport reach crunch point? ‘‘Five years, maybe. It'll be terrible by then.
"If you live at Ropes Crossing the nearest train is at St Marys which isn’t close and isn’t safe at night. Besides, the train will only take you to a handful of destinations. And many people don’t actually work in the city.’’
The problems outlined here by UWS are, of course, beyond the scope of developers who are aiming for the most functional and desirable living environments possible. It is up to state and local governments to plan adequately and wisely for all residents, current and coming.
Next week we ask the Minister for Planning exactly how she is doing that. ❏
■ READ PART 3 | If estates are a turning point, what's next? Minister Pru Goward explains her vision, for now and the future, and addresses the problems of selling it.
■ READ PART 1 | The way we live has changed Where did the idea for masterplanned estates come from and what are homebuyers getting for their money? We talk to UrbanGrowth NSW to begin our special three-part report.
■ Other Fairfax stories by this writer