Managing growth seemingly beyond our control

We witnessed a fascinating, but ultimately frustrating panel discussion this afternoon at the Property Council-hosted Growth Summit Business Lunch, in Melbourne.  Fascinating as the panel, broadcasters Virginia Trioli and Waleed Aly and writer Sophie Cunningham, provided an excellent discourse on the obstacles a rapidly growing Melbourne must surmount if we're to maintain our much-touted liveability status.   For instance, how we provide decent transport links (read train lines) to the fringes of a sprawling city when no politician is willing to upset the communities where lines will cross and hence suffer almost certain electorate defeat. Or how we increase inner suburb density through infill when most plans fall foul of NIMBYISM. Also fascinating was the challenge the panel put to the audience – many of whom were developers – to provide the amenities that families need within their plans, rather than squeezing in as much accommodation as possible. Indeed, the audience seemed receptive to this idea.

But ultimately, the discussion was frustrating. Of course, no one present was naive enough to think the solutions could come from a 1-hour discussion. But the laying out of the problems showed out intractable they are. Like a Melbourne tram, we seem destined to travel a pre-ordained route; a track that leads to many residents – those on the fringes – to a life of long commutes, congestion, characterless suburbs and social dislocation.

Despite the good will in the room – from commentators and developers alike – to set aside commercial agendas and genuinely think big picture, it's hard to see any of the developers present having the mandate or means to do anything other than what they are doing at the moment.

The likelihood of a continuation of the status quo is why property investors should stick to the tried and tested – inner suburban established houses and apartments. The attractiveness of this asset class will only improve relative to other residential property options.

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