THE saying “west is best” has a lot more validity to it these days, with Melbourne’s western fringe in the middle of a property boom — and for good reason.
With Victoria’s capital set to become the most populous city in Australia by the 2030s, there’s increasing strain on the state’s inflated property market and existing housing crisis.
As a consequence, more homebuyers are looking west, tempted by its relative affordability, proximity to the CBD and the variety of urban developments on offer.
realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee believes there’s a number of qualities that make the area so appealing. “The west has changed a lot over the past decade,” Ms Conisbee says.
An artist impression of how Melbourne’s west will look in the future. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
“Part of it is affordability; to live 10kms west of Melbourne’s CBD is far cheaper than living 10kms east. Beyond that, there are a lot of lifestyle elements that people like, such as good public transport and thriving retail precincts.”
Similarly, Urban Development Institute of Australia CEO Danni Addison credits the region’s more attainable price tag.
“Affordability is a key factor attracting homebuyers to the western suburbs,” Ms Addison says. “While the city’s median house price now exceeds $900,000, there are still several suburbs in the west where buyers can get a foot in the door for under $400,000.”
Urban developments have also contributed to job growth in the western region, providing further temptation for homebuyers and investors alike.
“These figures are refreshing; they tell us there are still great opportunities for homebuyers to find a decent deal,” Ms Addison says. “But as more people recognise the value of the west, we’ll inevitably see home prices rise.”
Woodlea Estate. Photo: Supplied.Source:Supplied
“There’s a mix of inner-west locations that appeal to younger buyers. Places like Footscray offer interesting retail, great restaurants and proximity to the Melbourne CBD,” Ms Conisbee says.
“There’s also new housing developments farther west that appeal to first-home buyers and upgraders — anyone who wants to build their own home and live in a new community,” she adds.
Regional advocacy organisation LeadWest works with the six local governments in Melbourne’s west, major companies and organisations to foster and undertake action that will create a sustainable future for the region.
Melbourne’s west has been a “story of growth” in recent years, with the population booming and new infrastructure developments underway in the region.
LeadWest CEO Craig Rowley says Melbourne’s west is a region of “huge opportunity”. “Not just in the outer suburban areas in new estates, but in middle suburbs such as Maribyrnong and the suburbs in the City of Hobsons Bay, which are getting higher-density apartment living.”
Yet with so much growth, it’s imperative the community’s needs are addressed — including provision of health services, education facilities, employment opportunities and transportation options, he adds.
“There needs to be health services across the regions to keep people’s mental wellbeing high so they can be engaged, productive and integrated in a cohesive community,” Mr Rowley says.
“As long as government plans appropriately, the imminent growth and ongoing gentrification of the region will benefit its community enormously,” Ms Conisbee adds.
Williams Landing Train Station. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied
Transport is the key to development in the west, according to Mr Rowley. “We need to strengthen internal transportation within the west, which means more train services, buses and better bicycle connections,” he says.
The Victorian State 2018/19 budget recently announced $16.3 million will be spent on making Watergardens and Essendon stations more accessible for people living with disability, and $50 million is allocated for planning a fast train to Geelong integrated with an Airport Rail Link in Melbourne’s west.
Commuters on the Ballarat train line can look forward to a more comfortable trip now that work is steaming ahead to upgrade the service.
A $551.7 million contract will see duplication of the line between Deer Park West and Melton, allowing for future electrification of the line to Melton and the creation of a new metropolitan line to the city.
The upgrade promises extra services during peak times and trains every 40 minutes off-peak to cater to the growing population in Melbourne’s outer west and Ballarat.
Three of Melbourne’s airports — Melbourne, Essendon and Avalon — are all located in the west as well as the Port of Melbourne.
“We need a freight infrastructure plan that will help us secure economic growth and transport distribution, while also balancing the impact on communities.”
Werribee Plaza. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Creating jobs and economic growth near where people live needs to be a key consideration when it comes to planning the future of Melbourne’s west.
The Economic Development Strategy for the West of Melbourne, released in 2017, recommended Footscray become a major health, sport and active living precinct that would be based around the proposed new Footscray Hospital.
The strategy paper also outlined Sunshine as a potential employment hub for the health care, justice and construction industries, and suggested Werribee is a prime location for an innovation and education hub.
Maribyrnong College. Photo: Supplied.Source:Supplied
With population growth rapidly increasing in Melbourne’s west, there needs to be a strong focus on educating the next generation.
“About 35 babies are born each day in Melbourne’s west, and that’s filling classrooms pretty fast in a few years,” Mr Rowley says. “Our economic advantage in the future will be the talent of our people and their skills and education.”
The 2018-19 Victorian Budget includes $353.2 million in funding to build 12 new schools across the state — four of those will be located in Melbourne’s west.