Building up a no brainer – but at who’s cost?

This week we saw the issue raised once again that the only solution for Cairns to grow,

This week we saw the issue raised once again that the only solution for Cairns to grow, is to grow up – in height if not maturity (let’s not be TOO serious).

Cairns is by nature of geography and topography, a city stretched from Palm Cove to Gordonvale (and a little further, depending on your definitions), with mountain ranges (and the rocky slopes to go with it) to one side and the ocean and its associated lowlands to the other. This has left us a fairly small corridor for development, and with the majority of that space already put to use (or not yet economically viable), the logical solution is to add more homes, by adding more levels.

Whether that looks like rows of neat townhouses or a Gold Coast 2.0 is up to other minds, but regardless of the direction it does take, the logic of more homes in less space is going to come up against the very real barrier of cost. and that’s one that has held us back from going up, for near on 2 decades now.

Because the reason we don’t have more towers, and that project after project (Nova City, most recently) has failed to get off the ground, isn’t that no-one wants to live in them or that Council isn’t supportive – its that no-one has been able to make the dollars stack up to actually pay for the grand ideas.

Everyone knows the cost of construction has gone up – its no secret and we are now regularly seeing builds that might have cost $220,000 all the way back in 2019 now easily crest $350,000 like for like (on top of the land cost). Now apply that same methodology to building higher as well. Even at our elevated post-COVID sale prices, I think you would struggle to point to an apartment in Cairns today and say that you could re-create it for the price you could purchase it for as-is.

There are of course, those willing and able to pay a premium for a brand new product – the shiny, fan-dangled and conveniently located new development off the block. But that’s a relatively small portion of the market. What we need more of is the kind of development we saw in the early 2000s. Blocks of 2 bedroom apartments, whether it be 10, 30 or even 120 (probably the former 2, to be honest). Something affordable to rent or buy, but with enough margin in them for a developer to do the job and still put food on the table.

There are literally billions of dollars set aside across State and Federal government, designed to support affordable housing. Lets get some of that, spent here.