Canberra needs 12 new houses a day for next 20 years

The Property Council’s new ACT division president has issued a blunt warning about the impact of population growth on the nation’s capital.

Arabella Rohde said 12 houses a day will need to be constructed in the ACT for the next 20 years in order to keep up with the pace of growth in Canberra.

Ms Rohde, who is also Lendlease’s senior development manager, has 20 years’ industry experience, including 12 years in the nation’s capital.

Before her appointment as the Property Council’s first female president for the ACT on March 3,  Ms Rohde spent two years as the council’s vice president, and has chaired the residential and planning committee for the past eight years.

Ms Rohde said she was passionate about planning and during her term she would aim to “strike the right balance between economic recovery and important reforms to the planning system that enhance Canberra’s competitiveness and boosts employment”.

An estimated 10,000 jobs were lost in Canberra during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the ACT Government has forecast employment growth to reach four per cent for the year to June. 

According to the ACT Government, Canberra’s population growth was about 8000 a year pre-COVID, with the ABS estimating this dropped to 3400 in 2020.

But according to the ABC, an additional 170,000 people are still expected to move to the region over the next two decades, growing the population to 589,000 residents.

The ACT Government’s most recent planning strategy, published in 2018, found an extra 100,000 new homes would be needed to meet this demand, and 70 per cent of those in existing suburbs.

According to Ms Rohde, improvements to planning, land supply, infrastructure, tax and housing policies would be needed for Canberra to enhance its reputation for quality of life without further eroding housing affordability.

House prices in the nation’s capital surged 6.4 per cent over the December quarter to $855,530 and the unit market also had a 3 per cent quarterly gain, with the median price rising to $485,410.

“Canberra may miss opportunities to deliver more affordable housing, respond to emerging trends and meet new urban challenges,” Mr Rohde said. 

“The life cycle of a project is long, but at the rate of change our planning system iterates, we won’t keep up with the challenges ahead.”

She said the region needed a planning system that encouraged innovation and collaboration while retaining safeguards to ensure quality outcomes are met. 

“It’s not about bending the rules, but about having a flexible framework that encourages innovation,” Ms Rohde said.

In order to “iterate and innovate”, she said the ACT would require a more “holistic” planning and development system, which included the ACT Government and industry working in closer partnership to translate proposals into approvals and “diversify housing choices and property outcomes”.

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Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson was the news editor for Elite Agent. He worked with the company from February 2020 to June 2020. For current stories, news alerts or pitches, please email