The Future Of Cities and the Sydney Property Market

Whether you’re living in Sydney, moving to Sydney or looking to relocate within Sydney, it’s always important to figure out how your preferred locations are likely to change. Of all Australian cities, Sydney has been the fastest growing, both in terms of population and its economy.

The result has been a fast changing urban landscape that is likely to change as much in the next as it has in the last 50 years. Some of these changes necessarily come with the increase in population. But many others have been the result of significant changes in society as a whole.

The most recent Australian census reveals some of those changes. And these help to draw comparisons to other major global cities to see what’s in store for Sydneysiders.

The 2016 Australian Census Highlights

The first number you want to look at is the overall population growth. In 50 years, Australia has grown by an amazing 11.8 million people (more than doubling). This has been the result of a mix of positive birth rates and migration from Europe, Asia and the Americas.

For Sydney specifically, this means a total population that has now exceeded 4 million people for the first time, with no slowing down in site. In the 1960s the majority of arriving migrants were from Europe. They were coming to Australia to seek out new opportunities and a better life in a country with opportunities, not seen since the mass migration to North America.

In recent years there has been a rise in migration from Asia, mainly from China and Japan.The result has been a much more culturally diverse society, similar to cities like New York and London.

Another major change has been the makeup of the standard family. In the 60s and 70s it was still the traditional heterosexual married couple with 3 children. But in the last 5 years alone, the number of couples indicating they are in a same sex relationship has risen to almost 50,000 couples. That’s almost 1% of family households.

While there are many more interesting numbers in the census, the population size, ethnic composition and the structure of the family are by far the most important to try and draw comparisons to societal and urban changes in other cities.

How Does This Compare To Other Cities?

The two best cities to try and draw comparisons from are New York and London. Culturally, they are very similar, not just from the shared language point of view. They were both centres for migrants from all over the world.

And in many ways, these cities have gone through developmental phases that are still ahead for Sydney.

Population Comparison

Both London and New York have a population of between 8 and 9 million people. This is about twice the size of Sydney, and something that would be considered entirely possible or probable in the next 50 years.

These cities also have a very ethnically diverse background; with New York being nicknamed “The Melting Pot” because so many different people came together living as one society.

However, there is one major difference between Sydney and these two global cities: Land Area.

New York has managed to accommodate twice as many people as Sydney on just 304 square miles. For London the land area is 607 square miles. When you compare that to Sydney’s 4700 square miles, it becomes very clear that the urban landscape plan has been following a very different path.

Sydney Of The Future

Rather than continuing the path of urban sprawl, building up and building high is going to be the only real sustainable option. So will be the increasing size of satellite urban areas that reduce the dependency on one central area of commerce.

Let’s take a closer look.

Collection Of Satellite Cities

New York has its 5 main boroughs where you can live and work in the same area. Not everything happens in Manhattan, which has resulted in geographically spread out areas of commerce.

In Sydney this is already something that can be seen in changing buyer interests. More and more areas as far as 25km from the CBD are becoming minor areas of commerce and living. Their popularity with young families looking to escape the noise and hustle of the inner city has significantly added to this change in urbanization.

What hasn’t happened in these satellite areas is an increase in high-rise living and office buildings that help to increase population and commerce density.

Smaller Living Spaces

It’s clear enough to see, that if Sydney were to double in population, then doubling its land area is just not going to be feasible or sustainable. There is just no way to economically cater for such population growth with single-family homes.

The only other solution is to build up and create family friendly living spaces in a high-rise environment. While this poses significant challenges, you only need to look to London and New York to see how this can be successfully done.

More Carbon Efficient Living

Urban sprawl is not the only sustainability problem Sydney faces. Climate change and air pollution are an ongoing issue that will take decades to try to fix. And population growth is not going to make that easier.

However, when people live in smaller living spaces, and don’t have to travel as far to work, shopping and entertainment centres then that drastically lower the average carbon emission. With better public transport facilities the reliance on private cars decreases significantly as well.

And when you add in recent technological innovations around electrically powered and driver-less transport, then you quickly get a picture of a high-tech future. One with cleaner air quality and less carbon emissions.


There is only so much you can draw from similarities between Sydney and London, mainly because the latter two went through their biggest changes at a completely different time, with very different technologies available.

But one thing is for sure, and that is the continued population growth will require a drastic change in where and how we live. Multi-storey apartment and offices buildings will have to become more commonplace. And that will be a net positive for both living standards and affordability, so that the average family can have prospects of home ownership again.

If you want to find out more about great real estate opportunities in Sydney, then contact Brooke Flint 0425 221 226.