As cities in Australia continue to grow, so too does the distance between work and home for many Australians.  According to a new book titled City Limits: Why Australia’s cities are broken and how we can fix them by Grattan Institute fellows Paul Donnegan and Jane-Frances Kelly, employment generation in the five largest cities in Australia is predominantly occurring within 10 kilometres of cities whilst population growth is happening 20 kilometres from the city centre.

The report finds in Melbourne there is almost one job for every resident living within 10 kilometres of the city, but the job rate declines to three jobs for every 10 residents if you move 20 kilometres from the city.  The lack of available inner suburban housing in Melbourne sees some workers facing 2 hour one way commutes to reach their place of employment.   Not only does this lead to a lack of opportunities for those living further away, it also has detrimental effects on family time and personal relationships with one in four full-time employees in Australia spending more time commuting than with their children.  Transport options are also limited for those living 20 kilometres from the city, with one family profiled spending $900 a month on petrol and parking.

Donnegan and Kelly blame, amongst other things, the failure of the Australian housing market for the deficit in housing within inner urban areas.  This deficit they say is leading to surging house prices, effectively pricing young people and lower income earners out of the market and pushing them further towards the urban fringe.

Public transport and upgrading infrastructure are highlighted as important factors in decreasing the divide, but the co-authors argue that they are only part of the solution.  The book calls for provision of greater housing choice within inner urban areas for the many Australians who would compromise space to live closer to the city.  Whilst the book is not advocating the creation of a high rise inner city, it supports a simplification of the complex planning regulations and bureaucratic process that exist within cities and make it hard to achieve a range of housing types.


P.S.  These findings lead us to ask, were the new residential zones implemented in Victoria in 2014 too restrictive?  Based on the above it seems a review of the new residential zones is warranted.