Last week around 500 residents of the small town of Dunsborough in Western Australia turned out to a rally protesting against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine soaring inflation tax increases climate change … affordable housing:

“Several high-rise retail and housing projects are being developed in the town after receiving initial approval from the local council.

To prevent future applications, the City of Busselton has now approved a planning amendment that limits building heights to three storeys in the Dunsborough town centre.

But the amendment needs final approval from the WA Planning Commission and Ms Saffioti before it can be gazetted.”

Dunsborough has a population of 6,413 (2021), although it’s also a popular tourist destination that welcomes many more than that during the state’s hot summer months. Property prices are up 10.7% over the past year alone and added density is one way of relieving that pressure.

But alas, the town’s residents fear that “Dunsborough will be overrun by six-storey, million-dollar apartment blocks” – completely missing the fact that luxury apartments still improve housing affordability – and:

“Ninety-five per cent of this community wants Dunsborough to maintain its coastal village atmosphere.”

By virtue of being born before today’s young people, the residents of Dunsborough want to price them out of the town (and no doubt maintain the generous rents on their granny flat AirBNBs). This is a classic ‘not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) response to the threat of a slight increase in density in the town itself – it’s not as though developers have suddenly been allowed to plonk down towers by the foreshore!

You’d be hard pressed to find someone in Dunsborough admit that they’re against more affordable housing – they’re in favour, just don’t build it in their town. And that would be fine if the NIMBYs were only in Dunsborough. The problem is, when every town behaves in the same way, well located housing gets very expensive, very quickly, and instead of 6 storey apartments in the town centre that are walkable to the beach, you end up with low density sprawl and cars clogging up the roads (and Dunsborough’s parking!).