Addressing the South East Queensland housing crisis: A path forward without more urban sprawl

Posted September 14, 2023

SGS Economics and Planning SEQ Housing

The South East Queensland housing crisis presents a pressing challenge as the region grapples with the need to accommodate a rapidly growing population, projected to exceed 6 million people in the next two decades.

At the heart of this challenge lies a critical question: How can planning in South East Queensland (SEQ) address housing needs while preserving its unique natural beauty, quality of life and biodiversity?

The "Best Practice Report" recently released by SGS, commissioned by the Queensland Conservation Council (QCC), proposes a way forward for metropolitan-scale planning to address housing needs while creating liveable, sustainable and productive communities. This report was prepared for QCC in the context of the recent release of a new draft SEQ Regional Plan and a public submissions period.

The report highlights the need to plan cities in a smarter way, meaning building more houses in already developed areas and making better use of existing infrastructure and services. It also found that reducing outward urban growth leads to lower living costs, greater proximity to job opportunities – especially for women with qualifications matching available jobs, and reduced transport expenses that otherwise burden household budgets.

Additionally, this strategic approach places a strong emphasis on environmental preservation, resulting in decreased habitat destruction and reduced exposure to flooding and climate hazards.

Lead author of the report and SGS Principal and Partner Patrick Fensham talks about the significance of this research:

Our Best Practice Report emphasises that there are community wide and household benefits from better planning for a more compact city.

The research and evidence tells us that if SEQ built more dwellings in already developed areas than is currently the case, the community as a whole stands to benefit and save money - because existing infrastructure and services are better utilised and less new infrastructure is required.”

— SGS Principal and Partner, Patrick Fensham

The proposed approach to planning for SEQ is built upon five pillars of good planning. These pillars are essential to ensuring that future housing in SEQ is in the right places, has the necessary amenities and services, and provides enhanced access to jobs. They are crucial for creating communities that are not only great places to live but also sustainable and productive. These five principles are the building blocks for making SEQ a more compact city.

SGS Economics and Planning SE Qtable

These need to be accompanied by clear implementation pathways – concerted action and investment will need to be directed to delivery of the agenda under each pillar in SEQ, including through:

  • Fit for purpose governance arrangements that align responsibilities for planning and development assessment at state, metropolitan and local levels of place and project significance, including a dedicated metropolitan governance or coordination function to ensure an SEQ wide perspective on key matters.
  • An active government land developer (EDQ) to intervene for orderly and efficient development and to demonstrate best practice infill housing and development.
  • Effective mechanisms to deliver required infrastructure including a suite of development contributions to provide funding for infrastructure, that include user pays charges and value capture provisions.

South East Queensland is currently at a crucial point. It attracts new residents because of the economic opportunities it offers, great living conditions, and natural beauty, but the challenge of providing sufficient housing and ensuring orderly, sustainable development while protecting and enhancing its assets is significant. Our best practice report for QCC provides the principles and directions for a better future.

More information on the report can be found on the Queensland Conservation Council website, here.

Download the Best Practice Regional Planning for SEQ report

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SGS Economics Planning Pat Fensham
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Patrick Fensham

National Leader for Urban Policy & Governance | Principal & Partner

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Amanda Sturgeon


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SGS Economics Planning Marcus Spiller
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Marcus Spiller

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