Urban Taskforce | Policy Agenda
Fact sheet: Housing and car dependence
26 February 2011
Some people suggest that new homes shouldnt be built just because the residents might use a car. But, like it or not, cars are part of our modern society. You cant deprive people of a home of their choice, just because they may choose to put a car in their garage.
Is urban development unsustainable if residents will use their car?
If being reliant on a motor car was enough to make housing development unsustainable, then any community that was not large enough to support a large-scale public transport system would not be permitted to exist. Cities such as Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, Newcastle, Toowoomba, Townsville, Wollongong and Cairns do not have any meaningful intra-urban mass transit system and this is not going to change in the foreseeable future.
Even large areas of Australias biggest cities Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide - are not well serviced by public transport. Services are unlikely to dramatically improve within the next ten years. Cars are a part of the everyday life of our cities. It is more likely that the cars themselves will change to be greener, before Australians decide to vote their suburbs and towns communities out of existence.
Should government prohibit new housing that is not near public transport?
Home buyers should be in charge of their own destiny and decide for themselves what kind of lifestyle they want. Some will seek out pedestrian friendly apartment living close to public transport in the inner suburbs of our major cities. There is a serious undersupply of this kind of compact home. But many home buyers will still insist on a house with its own backyard in a suburban community.
Its the job of governments to allow more of both kinds of housing - not to try and re-direct people away from the housing type of their choice. Governments are there to help people achieve their goals, not force them to live in accordance with someone else's.
The mobility offered by cars is important
Private road vehicles account for about 90 per cent of the total urban passenger task. The great majority of commutes are by motor vehicle, as are shopping and social journeys. Public transport is an important part of any city and is vital for taking people from higher density residential areas to high density employment areas. But many people dont work in high density employment locations. For example, most public transport systems are geared to get people to the part of a city which has the highest concentration of workers. But this centre only ever has a minority of jobs in a city.
Only 14 per cent of Sydneys jobs are found in the inner and inner western Sydney area. Just 16 per cent of Melbournes jobs are found in inner Melbourne. Brisbanes inner ring is home to 27 per cent of its jobs and Perths central metropolitan area accounts for just 9 per cent of its jobs. Many people work on the road, in suburban locations and smaller centres. An increasingly larger share of our population work from home. We cant ever assume that most workers will be able to use public transport to get to their job - in fact most will never have that choice. Similarly, it will be a rare family (or network of friends) whose members all happen to live in conveniently to public transport.
In any event older people, those with disabilities and those with young children, have a strong need to use a car even when public transport is available. Most people prefer to drive for the weekly shopping trip, conscious of the difficulties of juggling a large number of bags. Governments cannot ignore the reality that most households, even those who favour public transport for work journeys, are heavily dependent on motor vehicle transport
For more information (and source details) please read our fact sheet: