The uneven distribution of housing supply

This Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) report explains the variations in local rates of housing production between 2006 and 2016 by examining the quantity, composition and distribution of new housing supply across Australia.

Key Findings for WA

The study finds that new housing supply is distributed unevenly between and within the Australian states. Below highlights the key findings relating to Western Australia between 2006 and 2016.

  • WA had an increase in dwelling stock of 26 per cent. WA exceeded all other states, with the national total dwelling stock increasing by 17 per cent, shown in table below.

  • Households diversity in terms of dwelling size in all states decreased in the three-bedroom dwellings and increased in four- and five-bedroom dwellings.
  • In Perth, the highest number of building approvals for new dwellings occurred in middle and outer areas, which is contrary to the higher inner-city trends seen in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
  • In all capital cities nationally, the areas with high level of housing supply had below average house prices. In fact, all of the high supply areas in Perth and Brisbane were low-value areas.
  • Units in Perth were also more likely to be lower in price.
  • Finally, the greater Perth area showed a decline in the number of small to medium-sized apartments and an increase in the number of semi-detached, terraced and townhouse properties.

Key Learnings

To explore the reasons behind supply patterns in NSW and WA, interviews were conducted with state and local planners and developers in high supply locations. From these interviews the following learnings can be applied to other areas seeking to increase housing supply:

  • The planning system allows new housing development by zoning land and ensuring diverse housing types are permissible based on locations needs. Zoning is essential for enabling developers to respond to strong housing demand.
  • The development industry’s reading of market conditions, and assessments of projects’ financially viability drive the timing and composition of new housing supply.
  • High housing supply in WA was largely a result of the availability of relatively cheap land.
  • The availability of large greenfield or brownfield sites conducive to larger scale, master-planned development also provided means to increase housing stock, this was particularly present in NSW.
  • Improved infrastructure capacity, particularly resulting from transport infrastructure investment.

Another vital component to increasing housing stock and diversity is the role played by state development agencies like DevelopmentWA. Development agencies can proactively facilitate housing stock growth in outer-city areas and urban renewal in inner-city areas. DevelopmentWA can assemble sites that allow at scale delivery of housing stock and avoid disjointed infill development in WA’s growing city areas.

Policy Development Options

The AHURI report highlights a number of policy options to increase housing stock both in established and growing areas.

One key recommendation is to sustain and expand social and affordable housing stock through the implementation of new initiatives that focus on diversify housing products, choice, and suitability. Some initiatives that can be considered include;

  • Purpose-built rental accommodation.
  • Deliberative residential led or cooperative forms of housing development.
  • Low-cost or shared-equity forms of ownership.

Furthermore, there is a need for strong government involvement to provide demonstration projects and releasing available land.

The full AHURI report including more information on policy and reform options can be found here.


Rowley, S., Gilbert, C., Gurran, N., Leishman, C. and Phelps, C. (2020) The uneven distribution of housing supply, 2006–2016, AHURI Final Report No. 334, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne. View here.