Is NSW Premier a Closet NIMBY?

Spiralling rental costs in the capital cities in the post-COVID economic boom presented state political leaders with a unique opportunity. Lampooned for decades for being in the pocket of developers, the newly evident housing undersupply made housing a progressive cause.

NSW Premier Chris Minns has apparently become this unique moment’s early adopter. “Forget about owning a home, it’s now become impossible to even rent a home,” said Minns in May. “Sydney can’t grow by adding another street to its western fringe every week.”

Sounding like your average millennial at Christmas drinks, Minns noted at a speech at the Sydney Institute this week that in 2000, the median Sydney house sold for 6.5 times a mid-career teacher’s salary, and that that same house now costs 14 times the salary.

So responding to Minns’s expressed desire for a “great reform,” NSW planning officials have flagged 50 zones across the city as appropriate for intensifying development. They include Kogarah, the Premier’s own seat. 

Yet somehow Kogarah did not make the final cut for priority development zones. That’s despite the suburb enjoying a 20-minute heavy rail connection to Sydney Central.

There were ultimately just seven zones chosen, including Burwood, Crows Nest and Waterloo, which already have substantial high-rise development. 

Sydenham is another designated development area. But its proximity to the airport makes meaningful high-rise housing construction impossible.

French’s Forest is the only chosen site on the wealthier north side. Its target was downgraded from 6,000 new homes to 2,000. Two further sites are expected around Kellyville in the far west of the city.

Obviously, this is nothing like the “massive housing density push” the Premier has been spruiking. A little digging gives a clue as to why. 

The good old days: Kogarah railway station in 1906.

When campaigning for re-election in Kogarah in 2019, Minns wrote to then-premier Gladys Berejiklian criticising “overdevelopment” at Kogarah train station. He is one of a suite of Labor MPs, like those in Canterbury, Campsie, Coogee and Maroubra, who have taken similar positions about development in their own electorates in recent years.

While you might think any Sydney politician would love to do a deal with a property developer, it seems few are willing to risk their own seat in the process.

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