Medium-density approvals surpass standalone for first time

Approvals for medium-density housing have overtaken standalone homes for the first time according to new research by Bankwest. In its Housing Density Report it shows that in the year to October 2015 there were 117, 552 building approvals for medium-density housing compared with 115,634 for freestanding homes.

Greg Caust, Bankwest general manager, says the results reflect a long-term shift towards medium-density, which shows no signs of abating.

“That 12-month period to October was a record breaker… I have no doubt medium-density approvals will shortly exceed approvals for standalone homes – not just occasionally, but on an ongoing basis,” he says.

“Half the approvals in the 12 months to November 2015 were for medium-density housing – up from 43.1 per cent the previous year and well ahead of the average 34.4 per cent over the past 20 years.”

So, are these trends a reflection of the times? Property lecturer Peter Koulizos says there’s a reason why medium-density housing is becoming more and popular in Australia.

“People aren’t looking for big backyards anymore as they don’t need all that outdoor space; they just need enough yard for a barbecue and entertaining friends,” he says.

“Medium-density housing is generally on smaller blocks of land, which makes it more affordable than low-density housing.”

Caust believes the increase in medium-density is largely driven by strong approval rates in Australia’s capital cities.

“Higher density housing trends may be developing due to affordability issues, however they also mean society is moving toward more sustainable living.”


National medium density trends

NSW – tops nation in medium-density housing approvals.
QLD – the nation’s fastest growth in medium-density housing.
SA – medium-density housing hits record high.
Victoria – higher density housing approvals increase at four times the rate of standalone.
WA – resilience in higher density housing.


The report highlights a clear long-term trend towards medium-density homes in Australia.

  • The number of new approvals for medium-density housing is near a 20-year high, with 115,731 approvals in the 12 months to November 2015, up 33.9 per cent from 86,430 in the 12 months to November 2014. On the other hand, growth in approvals for standalone homes over the same period was a sluggish 1.5 per cent.
  • Half of dwelling approvals in the 12 months to November 2015 were for medium-density housing, up from 43.1 per cent in the 12 months to November 2014 and well ahead of the 20-year average of 34.4 per cent.
  • While New South Wales has the highest number of medium-density dwelling approvals, Queensland leads the nation in the growth of medium-density approvals, with the number of approvals in the 12 months to November 2015 growing by a whopping 53.1 per cent.
  • Medium-density housing remains much more prevalent in the capital cities than in regional areas. In the 12 months to November 2015, more than half (57.4 per cent) of approvals in capital cities were for medium-density dwellings, compared to only 23.1 per cent in regional areas.
  • More than two thirds of local areas nationally (225 out of 330 or 68.2 per cent) have seen an increase in medium-density housing as a proportion of total housing stock.

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