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How COVID-19 changed the way Victorians work, live, and play

Times have well and truly changed, and as a result, so have the wants and needs of Australians – including how and where they want to live. 

The pandemic has changed our collective priorities, and that’s reflected in PwC’s latest CityPulse 2021, which examines the liveability of Victorian suburbs. 

PwC Australia Melbourne Managing Partner Peter Konidaris said CityPulse 2021 unearthed the rise of the family-friendly, middle ring suburbs, as Victorians shifted their priorities and changing values. 

“CityPulse 2021 has shown destinations popular with first-home buyers and Victorians seeking to raise a family have improved when it comes to their Live – Staying Local scores,” Mr Konidaris said. 

“We’ve seen suburbs such as Heidelberg, Wantirna and Montmorency rise up the rankings with their Live – Staying Local scores, courtesy of good accessibility to open spaces for recreation and larger, more affordable homes.”

Crucially, many of these suburbs had become more liveable once a commute to work factor was removed, the report showed. 

While high liveability is transcending further afield across greater Melbourne, Mr Konidaris said Victoria’s fastest-growing outer suburbs remained challenges that needed to be addressed. 

“With these outer corridors continuing to grow at steady knots, infrastructure and service delivery capacity will need to keep up – and so too will suburban transport options,” he said.

“Growth in outer-ring suburbs will need to be addressed to ensure communities are well-serviced to keep up with demand. 

“Steps to decentralise Melbourne may help to shore up the amenity and live, work and play opportunities for these outer neighbourhoods, closer to home.”

Greater Melbourne suburbs change in liveability. Source: PwC CityPulse 2021.

Northcote leads the way

While the analysis showed the Live – Staying Local scores of Victoria’s suburbs was growing in Melbourne’s family-friendly inner ring, this is in contrast to previous reports where scores were higher in suburbs on the cusp of the CBD. 

That’s thanks to changes to the way we live, meaning suburbs offering more open space, larger homes, and easy access to key essentials are, in many cases, valued as much as those close to the city.

This year’s Live – Staying Local scores see Melbourne’s inner-north suburb of Northcote and neighbours Heidelberg – Rosanna, along with Kew and Coburg all featured in the top 10. 

Northcote climbed five spots up the rankings, topping the chart with a score of 10. 

The key metrics of both Live scores are central to these rankings, awarded to suburbs deemed the best place for residents to live who can either work from home full-time or who do not work.

Melbourne’s CBD will weather the storm of COVID-19

For those whose commute location will remain a factor into the future, and proximity to Melbourne’s CBD and areas of dense job opportunities becomes as important as it was before the virus reached Victoria, Mr Konidaris said. 

“Despite the realities of COVID-19, staying connected to the business heart of a city remains a priority for many people, demonstrated by Melbourne’s CBD retaining the top Live – Commuting score for 2021,” he said. 

“The result gives rise to our view that reports of the death of our CBDs are grossly exaggerated. 

“In fact, the CBD will retain its place as the heart of our city, and a hub of commerce, creativity and leisure.”

Mr Konidaris said while he believed Melbourne’s CBD would rise again, the analysis demonstrated opportunity also lay elsewhere, such as Point Cook. 

“Last year we saw Point Cook experience the greatest jump in 2020 Live scores and it continues to be a strong performer in the 2021 analysis,” he said.

Newcomers to the top 10 and the rise of the Mornington Peninsular 

For the first time, locations such as Montmorency- Briar Hill and Greensborough have flown up the charts and made their way into the top 10 Live – Staying Local scores.

For residents working from home, they represented desirable areas in which to spend more time, striking a balance between offering walkable access to key amenities, more space and sound property price performance,” the report said. 

The Mornington Peninsula and the sandbelt corridor were popular residential areas during the pandemic in 2020-2021. The entire peninsula climbed the list for 2021, continuing the trend seen in CityPulse 2020, where the peninsula suburbs and towns of Mt Eliza, Mt Martha.

Point Nepean and Dromana all topped Melbourne’s southern pocket ‘Most Improved Live Score Suburbs’.

Source: PwC CityPulse 2021

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a freelance journalist for Elite Agent.