Some Sydney council areas are already pushing past targets for new housing development set only two years ago, prompting the state government to consider new measures to ensure local infrastructure keeps up.
In a week in which the national population surged past 25 million, other figures released this week show Sydney is on track to meet and exceed ambitious targets to house the swelling number of people in the city.
In the Hills Shire in the north-west for example, more than 8600 new homes have been approved since 2016. That is more than the Greater Sydney Commission’s target of 8500 new homes to be built in the area between 2016 and 2021.
Other council areas already pushing up against large housing targets set by the commission, when measured by the number of approvals, include Penrith, Liverpool, the Sutherland Shire, Hornsby and Fairfield.
“We are well and truly over the target,” said Wendy Waller, the mayor of Liverpool. “We've got the land available, so we're very fortunate in that sense.”
But Cr Waller said the council’s challenge was to ensuring roads, parks, and other community infrastructure keep pace with the rapid expansion. And to helping establish the conditions for local jobs, so residents did not have to leave the area for work.
“We probably estimate we are looking at over $270 million just in traffic improvements alone... that's nasty intersections and reconfigurations and so on,” Cr Waller said.
In the city’s north-west, it is understood the state government is soon to sign off on a new local infrastructure scheme.
The scheme would require new contributions from developers to meet a list of community needs, such as roads, water supply, footpaths and parks.
“Doing nothing to provide housing for our children is not an option,” said the Planning and Housing Minister, Anthony Roberts.
“It is critical that, just as generations before us built homes to house this generation, we need to build homes to house the next generation," Mr Roberts said.
Michael Edger, the general manager of Hills Shire Council, said the rate of housing development in the area had been “faster than we re used to, and it’s been sustained for a fair period of time”.
“We’re conscious that the growth is faster than what some would like,” said Mr Edgar, who credited the state government’s rail line through the area for much of the impetus. “But we’re working very, very hard to provide the things that we can to accommodate it.”
“They’re not bad problems to have.”
One of the city’s largest housing targets was set for Camden, the semi-rural council area to the city’s south-west.
Two years ago Marcus and Angela Biady were the first people to move into their development, Crest by Mirvac in Gledswood Hills, a 10-minute drive from Leppington station on the South West Rail Link.
“Since we've moved in a year later we've got a lot of people living here,” said Mr Biady, who said he moved to the area for the back-yard and the rural feel.
“It reminds me of when I was a kid. We hang out at each other's places. Everyone’s really willing to talk and hang out, which is really nice.”
The Greater Sydney Commission does not use housing approvals as the key measure to see if its targets are met; rather, the commission uses figures for the ‘commencements’ of new houses.
But the majority of approvals eventually become new homes. Developers said the industry was struggling to keep up with housing approvals granted in the past couple of years, though approvals had recently started to fall away.
“Construction activity still hasn't peaked,” said Nigel Edgar, the General Manager of Residential NSW at Frasers Property.
“You'll see it peak probably some time in the next six months or so,” said Mr Edgar.
The city’s largest targets for 2021 were set for Parramatta, the City of Sydney, Canterbury Bankstown, Blacktown and Camden.
Almost half of the 21,650 new homes slated for Parramatta by 2021 have already been built.
A spokeswoman for the Greater Sydney Commission said the organisation "happy with the progress councils are making on their five year housing targets and, in a number of cases, they are surpassing them."
"The Commission is supporting councils to update their housing strategies and local strategic planning statements, which will inform the establishment of 6-10 year targets," the spokeswoman said.
These local plans are due for exhibit next year.