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Waterloo plan for ‘twice the density’ of Sydney’s most populated suburbs

Thousands of apartments planned for the Waterloo redevelopment in the inner city will make the suburb the most densely populated part of Sydney, new analysis shows.

About 7500 homes for more than 14,000 residents are planned for towers up to 40 storeys high on the Waterloo public housing estate and the “Metro Quarter” around the suburb’s future rail station. This would make the area roughly double the density of two of Sydney’s most built-up suburbs, Rhodes and Zetland, according to analysis by urban planners at the City of Sydney.

Waterloo's redeveloped public housing estate will become home to about 14,000 Sydneysiders in the next 20 years. The government plans to demolish the site's existing public housing buildings.
Waterloo’s redeveloped public housing estate will become home to about 14,000 Sydneysiders in the next 20 years. The government plans to demolish the site’s existing public housing buildings. Credit:Robert Pearce

The planners compared the state government’s plans for Waterloo with built-up areas of a similar size – between 15 and 25 hectares – throughout Sydney.

Under the plans, the 21-hectare Waterloo site will have 360 dwellings per hectare, which the council’s analysis suggests would make it the densest mass of development in Sydney.

The bulk of the precinct will be private housing, with 35 per cent social and affordable homes.

The next densest area is the existing Victoria Park development in inner city Zetland, which has 3200 homes spread across 16 hectares, or 200 properties per hectare.

Plans for 7500 apartments in part of Waterloo will mean the site has roughly the same number of dwellings as Newtown or Redfern.
Plans for 7500 apartments in part of Waterloo will mean the site has roughly the same number of dwellings as Newtown or Redfern.Credit:City of Sydney

The City of Sydney opposes the government’s proposal for Waterloo. Lord mayor Clover Moore said the plans set “an incredibly poor precedent” and were an “experiment in overdevelopment with the most marginalised people in our community”.

“In a very small area of just 21 hectares, they are trying to cram the same number of dwellings you’d find in much larger suburbs like Redfern, Newtown, Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Bondi Beach or Pyrmont.

“It’s almost impossible to find anywhere on earth a government has proactively planned to build a development as dense as what this government is planning for Waterloo.”

A spokeswoman for Social Housing Minister Pru Goward said that 60 per cent of the buildings in the proposed masterplan for the Waterloo estate overhaul were seven storeys or lower.

City of Sydney analysis compared similar density neighbourhoods of 6000 to 9000 dwellings in Sydney.
City of Sydney analysis compared similar density neighbourhoods of 6000 to 9000 dwellings in Sydney.Credit:City of Sydney

East Chippendale, taking in the Central Park development and the southern end of the Sydney central business district, has 190 dwellings per hectare. Rhodes has 180 homes per hectare.

Potts Point and the Moore Park Gardens precinct have 160 dwellings per hectare, while Kings Cross, Elizabeth Bay and the area around St Leonards train station all have 150 homes per hectare.

The 16-hectare Green Square development will eventually comprise 3800 homes, or 240 dwellings per hectare.

The 6800 dwellings proposed for the Waterloo estate site alone would make it home to about 14,000 Sydneysiders, which is more than the population of the suburbs of Pyrmont and Rhodes.

The council’s analysis shows that, in other parts of Sydney, a similar number of new homes planned for Waterloo are spread over areas about five times the size of the redeveloped site.

Roughly 7000 dwellings are found in each of the areas of Newtown (159 hectares), Redfern (117 hectares) and Ultimo/Chippendale (102 hectares).

In the combined suburbs of Kings Cross, Potts Point and Rushcutters Bay, 7400 properties are spread over 49 hectares – an area more than twice the size of the Waterloo site.

Across the harbour, 6000 homes are concentrated in the 115-hectare area that takes in apartment blocks in the four suburbs of Kirribilli, Milsons Point, Lavender Bay and McMahons Point.

The City of Sydney has put forward a lower-density plan for 5300 dwellings in apartment blocks that would top 13 storeys at the Waterloo estate site.

An artist's impression for one of the options of the redevelopment. The government's preferred masterplan includes two parks and a widened George Street "boulevarde".
An artist’s impression for one of the options of the redevelopment. The government’s preferred masterplan includes two parks and a widened George Street “boulevarde”. Credit:NSW Government

Councillors will debate the plan at an extraordinary meeting on Monday afternoon.

Ms Goward’s spokeswoman said: “The Waterloo Estate and Metro Quarter will have fewer people per hectare, smaller bulk and scale, and more open space than Central Park, championed by Clover Moore, and Green Square town centre, a City of Sydney-led project.

“In addition, unlike Central Park and Green Square, 35 per cent of Waterloo will have social and affordable housing provided on site.”

The state government proposes towers up to 40 storeys and two parks for the Waterloo housing redevelopment.
The state government proposes towers up to 40 storeys and two parks for the Waterloo housing redevelopment. Credit:City of Sydney

Urban Taskforce Australia chief executive Chris Johnson said the plans and the level of density proposed were suitable for an urban area close to public transport.

“When I look at the numbers, it is 730 people per hectare at Waterloo [estate site], versus 1000 people per hectare at the Central Park development. It’s not over the top at all in my opinion.”

Residents of the Waterloo estate and public housing advocates have argued the redevelopment will not include enough affordable housing.

“The tricky thing from the community’s perspective is to work out what density is viable for that space,” REDWatch community group spokesman Geoff Turnbull said.

Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

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