The number of dwellings in the second-stage light rail corridor could more than double if planning controls are changed to encourage higher density development, the ACT government has been told.
A study of the broader light rail corridor area, between Parliament House and Woden town centre, found the area had the capacity for almost 30,000 dwellings.
There are currently 13,100 dwellings and 31,300 jobs in the area, which includes Forrest, Deakin, Yarralumla, Curtin, Hughes, Lyons, Phillip, Chifley, Pearce, Mawson, Torrens and Farrer.
The area in Canberra's south could also sustain up to 86,300 jobs if the planning rules allowed denser development.
By 2041, there could be 22,400 dwellings in the area under a high-density scenario, with an ultimate capacity of 28,900 homes.
Most of the increase is centred in pre-existing centres, but there would also be a modest increase in the number of dwellings in lower-density areas.
The study presented three options to the ACT government - high-, medium- and low-density scenarios - but did not recommend any of the approaches.
Without changes to the planning system, the number of dwellings could eventually grow to 20,000 in the area.
The report, prepared by consultants at Mecone and Atlas Urban Economics, said the densification project would contribute towards a "greater proportion of medium- to higher-density housing in the precincts, providing more housing choice in the region overall".
"The study also identifies the need for urban realm improvements, such as pedestrian bridges, or pedestrian priority or signalised road crossings, to help improve pedestrian amenity and encourage mode shift and patronage," the report said.
The 2021 report, released under freedom of information laws, said the precinct presented a largely good opportunity for urban infill outside some localised environmental constraints.
"There is a large quantum of surface car parking, ageing building stock, or under-developed sites, all of which could better leverage upon the investment in light rail," the report said.
There could be up to 10,900 dwellings by 2041 in the Phillip-Woden area under a high-capacity scenario presented to the ACT government, or 9,200 dwellings in the baseline and medium-density scenarios. There were 2,100 dwellings in 2021.
The Phillip-Woden area could also support up to 53,200 jobs, but the consultants said there would be 32,000 under a high-density development scenario by 2041.
The consultants said there could be up to 1900 dwellings on land at the Curtin horse paddocks under a high density scenario, where development has been strongly opposed by local residents and horse owners.
Increasing building heights around the Mawson shopping centre would more than double the number of dwellings in the area, up from 500 in 2021 to 1100 by 2041. The consultants' report said there was a capacity of 1300 dwellings under a high-density scenario, or 800 dwellings under the baseline scenario.
The number of jobs at Mawson is expected to increase to 1000 from 600 under all three scenarios presented to the government.
"[The high-density] uplift is more extensive than the medium scenario but is still considered appropriate due to relatively low density in the surrounding suburbs and the increased desirability of these areas following the introduction of light rail," the report said of increased density at Mawson.
The report said light rail might have a "catalytic influence" on centres like Mawson and Phillip-Woden, which may encourage private investment and attract new businesses and residents to the areas.
"Additionally, precincts such as the Curtin horse paddocks may be able to support higher densities with the improved public transport accessibility, though development and environmental constraints may limit the potential of the site," the report said.
The Curtin horse paddocks site would support up to 1900 dwellings by 2041 under a high-density scenario, or 530 dwellings under a medium density approach. Proposed development at the site has faced significant community opposition.
"As the precinct is currently undeveloped, the primary development constraints are environmental, including protected flora and fauna, rare plants. There are also the aforementioned considerations from the future adjacent diplomatic estate," the report said.
The report identified areas for intensification in places that would become more accessible as a result of light rail services.
"Because transport projects improve the desirability of a location and therefore increase its market demand, the overall housing demand for an area will increase," the report said.
"This could be from drawing demand that could otherwise be satisfied in other areas in the region. By creating additional housing capacity in the form of different dwelling types (such as missing middle, townhouses and apartments), housing prices will remain in line with base demand reducing the possibility decreased affordability."
The areas identified would benefit from existing open spaces, were large enough and were within walking distance of proposed light-rail stops.
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The ACT government adopted a policy in 2018 to release 70 per cent of land for new dwellings within the existing city footprint, increasing the density of the city. Greenfield residential development would make up 30 per cent of the land released each year under the target.
One of the government's long-claimed benefits of the light rail project has been to create higher-density living and increase property values in the corridor, increasing jobs and reducing the need to open up new housing developments on empty land further out.
The Auditor-General in 2021 found the business case for stage 2A of light rail - a planned 1.7 kilometre link between the city centre with Commonwealth Park - relied too heavily on so-called "transformational projects" around the transport corridor.
A government report into the first light-rail stage, a 12 kilometre link between Gungahlin and the city, found it had a cost-benefit ratio of 1.3, up from the original business case which forecast a ratio of 1.2.
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