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Elevating homes to tackle the housing shortage: Sydney embraces innovative airspace development strategy


At a launch event graced by New South Wales shadow minister Tim James, the groundbreaking Association of Rooftop & Airspace Development unveiled its innovative approach to tackle Australia’s housing supply crisis. With Sydney and Melbourne in mind, where space is at a premium, the association champions the concept of constructing new housing atop existing structures as an effective means to accommodate growing populations in urban centres.

Tim James, the Shadow Minister for Fair Trading, Work Health & Safety and Building, and Member for Willoughby, delivered an insightful speech emphasising the significant role that airspace development could play in addressing Sydney’s acute housing shortage, which he quantified as “well over 100,000 residences shortfall.”

“By 2040, half of Sydney will live in strata and that says a lot about how this city will have changed, and it is changing. How we live – the homes we have, the spaces, the extent to which we’re going up versus going out – that is a transition, a journey that we are on, and I think this [airspace development] should be and most likely will be part of that journey,” Mr James articulated, showcasing his vision for Sydney’s growth.

Adding a practical dimension to the discussion, Melissa Neighbour, a founding member of Sydney YIMBY and director of Sky Planning, explained the benefits of modular buildings, constructed off-site and placed atop existing buildings, as a sustainable development practice. “We need more housing, that housing needs to go somewhere, and this can be part of the solution,” she stated, emphasizing the sustainable and affordable aspects of modular construction for new housing needs.

In a move to combine innovation with renovation, Warren Livesey, the founder of the Association of Rooftop & Airspace Development, shared insights into how airspace development could revitalize ageing strata buildings in Sydney. “What airspace is doing is trying to turn a liability into an asset,” he remarked, alluding to the potential for owners to generate profits by selling new units constructed in the previously unused airspace above their buildings. This approach, he said, can help fund necessary refurbishments without placing a financial burden on owners.

Livesey highlighted the international context of airspace development, noting that London, Paris, and New York are already well-versed in maximizing their skies, a trend Sydney is now positioned to follow. Moreover, Livesey envisioned that the city could harness approximately $100 billion worth of untapped airspace, all while advocating for the inclusion of eco-friendly features like solar panels and water tanks to address both housing affordability and climate change concerns.

The Association of Rooftop & Airspace Development stands at the forefront of an urban evolution, one that promises to reshape city skylines and offer relief to a problem pressing on the nation’s foundation—a lack of affordable homes. This latest development signals a potential revolution in both urban planning and sustainability, lifting the hopes and roofs of Australian cities toward a brighter, more accommodating future.

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