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Boom time in the burbs as firms fall out of love with city centre

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Fringe areas of Greater Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast are poised to take advantage of firms wanting to make major shifts away from basing themselves in the CBD.

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One of the first comprehensive surveys of how COVID-19 is likely to change workplaces in south-east Queensland found that 88 per cent of CBD-based firms are considering changes in their workplaces, including relocating, shrinking the amount of floor space they occupy or reconfiguring offices.

Nearly one in five commercial tenants – 19 per cent – had either already adopted or were considering a suburban location as part of their future strategy, according to the survey.

Commissioned by urban affairs lobby the Suburban Alliance, the market review also found that all those firms surveyed expected some of their staff to work at least part of the time from home.

These would be “part of normal workplace arrangements moving forward, with employees on average spending 1-2 days per week working from home the most common response”, the survey reports.

Survey author Alex Blauensteiner told a Suburban Alliance function it was too early to fully determine the pandemic’s impact on future workplaces but there were clear trends emerging.

A predominant trend was for employers to opt for a combined arrangement for staff hat included spending some time in a CBD office and the rest working from home.

Funded by Moreton Bay Regional Council, Logan City Council and the Springfield Group, the survey will give added incentive to those regions on the edge of greater Brisbane to move ahead with economic development strategies as more and more people come to live and work outside the city centre.

Moreton Bay Council chief executive Greg Chemello said a recent study by the urban Development Institute of Australia had found that the areas in south-east Queensland where populations are forecast to grow faster than they were before the pandemic struck are Moreton, Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast.

He said the forecasts showed growth would be 10-20 per cent more in the Moreton Bay region than what was “already a high growth rate”.

“So that was an ‘oh dear’ moment for us,” he said.

He said the council had approved 1300 housing lots in the year to March, 2020, but in the six months from June to December, approved another 2600 homes.

“So, in half the time there was twice the sum approved,” he said.

“Local builders had closed their books in December for 2021. They can’t build any more.”

“We surpassed our annual infrastructure revenue budget in the first five months of the 2020-21 year.”

He said in response to such high demand the councils had changed the way it went about house approvals and had also reduced significantly the number of court appeals it pursued, preferring to negotiate with developers rather than call in the lawyers.

“COVID has changed things, most particularly it’s changed the perception of people so we are not so much looking at what is the change in behaviour but how peoples’ perceptions are open to doing things a different way,” he said.

“So, we say let’s give them a way of doing it in Moreton Bay.”

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