By Terry Ryder – www.hotspotting.com.au
BLACKTOWN (NSW – Western suburbs of Sydney)
Key Influences Cheapies with Prospects, Transport Infrastructure, Education-Medical Highlights Fastest-growing LGA in NSW; affordable houses; access to M7, M2 and M4; train links to Parramatta, Sydney CBD; upgrade of parking at train stations; $230mil Richmond Line duplication; upgrade of Richmond Road; employment nodes; $120mil Hewlett-Packard facility; rent demand from hospital/education precincts; low vacancies; CBD renewal; $115 million Wet ‘n Wild; $325 million hospital upgrade; town planning changes.Typical houses $380,000 Blacktown, $425,000 Seven Hills, $440,000 Quakers Hill, $370,000 Doonside, $394,000 Marayong. Typical units $291,000 Blacktown, $413,000 Quakers Hill.
Several years ago we included Blacktown in our No Go Zones report. Values were falling, there had been no growth since 2004 and the area had myriad problems. Things have changed and today some locations in the Blacktown City municipality present good prospects for property investors.
The area grew in popularity in 2009, with lower-end buyers targeting it as an affordable area with good transport links, and there was steady price growth in 2010. This continued in 2011, at a time when many city markets flat-lined or fell, and there has been further moderate growth in 2012.The upgrades to road and rail infrastructure in the Blacktown area add to its appeal. There is also business expansion in the region, upgrades for Blacktown and Mt Druitt Hospitals, and development of a water theme park. Also significant is the NBN rollout providing high-speed broadband connection to new estates.
Blacktown’s prospects for investors may be enhanced by town planning changes currently being reviewed.
The Blacktown City local government area (LGA) sits in the western suburbs of Sydney, about 35km from the Sydney CBD and around 12km from Parramatta.
Population and demographics
Blacktown City is the most populous Local Government Area (LGA) in New South Wales, with 312,500 residents, according to 2011 Census data. The population grew 1.9% in 2007, 2.2% in 2008, 2.3% in 2009, 2.6% in 2010 and 1.9% in 2011, well above average for NSW. Blacktown City has added at least 6,000 to its population every year for the past four years – and has added more to its population than any other municipality in NSW in most of those years. Projections from the NSW Department of Planning suggest the LGA population will grow to 370,000 by 2022 and to 475,000 by 2036.
Blacktown City has an above-average component of kids (24% of the resident population, compared to the 17% Sydney average) and is below average for retirees. It was reported in 2012 that Blacktown was, once again, the No.1 place in NSW for new babies.
Westpoint Blacktown, recently expanded by 42,000m2 of retail space, is part of the amenity of Blacktown. In Blacktown City, 58% of residents are Australian-born. Other countries of birth include the Philippines (6.5%), India (5%), New Zealand (2.5%), Fiji (2%) and England (2%).This is mortgage belt territory: around 44% (well above average) have mortgages, 23% own their homes outright and 30% rent.
Economy and amenities
Australian Property Investor says of the Blacktown area: “The area is well-equipped with good facilities, including public transport, shopping centres and several employment nodes. Upgrades in transport infrastructure have made access into the City better, as well as to other parts of Sydney. “The proximity to Parramatta, Sydney’s second biggest city centre, is also a drawcard, as is the development of the Norwest Business Park in nearby Bella Vista.” Transport connections are key features of this area. There is ready access to the M7 Westlink, the M4 Western Motorway and the M2 Hills Motorway. Key suburbs have train stations with rail links to Parramatta and the Sydney CBD. The Blacktown LGA has 10 stations on two key rail lines, the Main Western and Richmond lines. Major commercial precincts (which rate as sub-regional centres) are located at Blacktown and Mount Druitt, while there are district centres in Seven Hills, Quakers Hill, Riverstone and Plumpton. A $350 million upgrade of Westpoint Blacktown in 2006 added 42,000m2 of retail space. There are 12 industrial estates, comprising 786 hectares of
developed land and 380 hectares for future development. There are two public hospitals at Blacktown and Mount Druitt, plus a private hospital at Minchinbury. There are also four
community health centres. The LGA has around 100 primary and secondary schools plus three technical colleges and the University of Western Sydney. Blacktown City is one of the major population growth areas of metropolitan Sydney. The number of new dwellings approved has increased from 1,276 in FY2005 and 1,248 in FY2006 to 1,648 in FY2008, 1,522 in FY2009, 1,957 in FY2010, 1,404 in FY2011 and 1,415 in FY2012.Proximity to employment nodes like the Parramatta CBD and the industrial estates clustered around
the M7/M4 intersection is important, as are good transport connections. About 60% of Blacktown City residents work outside the City, including 11% in Parramatta, 9% in the Sydney CBD, 6% in Baulkham Hills and 4% in Penrith. Quakers Hill Public School is one of 100 primary and secondary schools in Blacktown City. Proximity to the Parramatta CBD is a key feature for the suburbs of Blacktown City.
The Blacktown area grew in popularity in 2009, with the rise in activity by first-home buyers. NSW Government figures show that this buying action was concentrated largely on the western suburbs and particularly in Blacktown City. There was a 37% increase in first-time buyers in the suburb of Blacktown and a 35% increase in Blacktown North, the highest rises in metropolitan Sydney. The solid market performance continued in 2010, 2011 and 2012, with median prices growing in the past 12 months – including 8-9% growth in Doonside and Marayong. The suburbs profiled here tend to be dominated by houses built in the 70s and 80s, and provide a higher degree of affordability than neighbouring areas such as Baulkham Hills. The suburb of Blacktown is a highly active property market, with 589 house sales and 196 unit sales in the past 12 months, making it one of Sydney’s most popular suburbs. The Blacktown postcode was the third most popular area in NSW for first-home buyers in the 12 months to February 2013. It is also the third most popular postcode in NSW for first-time buyers since July 2000. Blacktown saw major median price growth for houses from 2002 to 2004, and then prices fell from 2005 to 2008, with a return to (moderate) growth from 2009 to 2012. There is a similar pattern for units. Current median prices, according to APM, are $380,000 for houses (up 3% over 12 months) and $290,000 for units (up 3%). Blacktown’s long-term capital growth average is not so impressive but is in keeping with the general performance of Sydney in the past
10 years. APM indicates that typical yields are 5.4% for houses and 6.8% for units.
Quakers Hill is a busy place for home sales, with 366 houses and 42 units sold in the past 12 months. It ranks No. 12 in NSW for firsthome buyers since 1 July 2000. Quakers Hill saw big price growth in 2002 and 2003, falling values in 2005 and 2006, small growth in 2007, fairly neutral price trends in 2008, small growth in 2009 and a stronger performance in 2010 and 2011. In the past 12 months the median price grew 3%. Median prices are $440,000 for houses and $413,000 for units. The long-term capital growth average is 3-4% for houses and units, but likely to improve with rising interest from budget home-buyers and investors. APM indicates typical yields are 5.2% for houses and 5.6% for units.
Australian Property Investor magazine in 2012 named Quakers Hill as “one of the best suburban prospects for capital growth in the Sydney area”. Brick-and-tile houses costing $350,000 to $450,000 are standard homes in Quakers Hill.
Seven Hills has a house median price of $425,000 according to APM. The long-term capital growth average is 4%, with rental yields of 5.2%. An encouraging aspect for property investors is the low level of vacancies. The vacancy rate for postcode 2148 (Blacktown and neighbours) is 1.6% and has been consistently below 2% for five
years, according to sqmresearch.com.au. The vacancy rate for postcode 2147 (Seven Hills and Lalor Park) is 1.1% and has been below 2% for the past four years. The vacancy rate for postcode 2763 (Quakers Hill and Acacia Gardens) is 1.7% and has been below 2% for the past four years.
Blacktown was called “Sydney’s best selling suburb, a real estate jewel in the heart of Sydney’s west” by the Herald Sun in February 2012. The article pointed out property sales in Blacktown had remained strong while in many other areas the market was stagnant or in a slump. Real estate agent Starr Partners Blacktown director Daniel Formosa said at the time his office was fielding 300 inquiries a week from buyers looking for 3 or 4- bedroom homes, with demand far outweighing supply. “Good clad homes in the range of $350,000 to $420,000 and well-presented brick homes between $380,000 and $450,000 are the average,” he said. SQM Research founder Louis Christopher said there were several reasons why Blacktown was a suburb to watch. “Firstly, it’s a railway suburb, it’s close to the orbital link and the M7 and of course it is affordable,” he said. Christopher said that as Sydney’s middle-income demographic started to move west to purchase larger affordable houses, Blacktown and surrounds would gain popularity. There are potential value-adding opportunities for investors in changes to the Blacktown City town plan, which is currently in draft form. Included in the draft plan are areas where property owners can
add a second attached dwelling and others where a second detached dwelling can be built.
The Draft Blacktown Local Environmental Plan 2013 has been placed on public exhibition until 19 April. The Draft LEP updates land zonings and development controls currently contained in the Blacktown LEP 1988, which has been amended over 200 times. The council says it expects to have to accommodate 44,000 new dwellings in the City of Blacktown by 2036.
The Blacktown precinct fits our definition of a future hotspot for the reasons outlined below. In recent years, Blacktown has been likewise branded a hotspot according to the definition applied by the Housing Industry Association (HIA). The HIA has listed Blacktown as a hotspot in its HIA-JELD-WEN Population and Residential Building Hotspots report. The report defines a hotspot as a local area where population growth exceeds the national rate and where the value of residential building exceeds $100 million. Blacktown’s growth prospects are enhanced by the attitude of its council, which shows lots of energy and ambition in advancing the area’s amenities and employment potential. Former Mayor Alan
Pendleton said in 2011 that Blacktown “stands ready to build another city to cope with a near doubling of population over the next 25 years”. Pendleton told The Australian that Blacktown would probably welcome another 200,000 residents, on top of the 300,000-plus current population. “We’ve certainly got the space to house a lot more people, provided the infrastructure comes,” he said.
– Council and proposed CBD
Pendleton unveiled a plan for a new CBD in August 2012. The council wanted to set aside 17ha foroffice space within a traditional CBD setting. The zoning shakeup would pave the way for Blacktown to become Sydney’s newest CBD, with office blocks up to 18 storeys high, a new business park and a program to generate investment. The plan aimed to boost the area’s employment capacity from 5,000 to 40,000 and help tackle the region’s unemployment rate, which is above average. Pendleton said Blacktown’s labour force would drive a diverse economy, including engineering, finance, property, administration, health, information technology and communication, sales and business development.
In June 2012 Pendleton called on the NSW Premier to “restore democracy to local communities” over new developments. Pendleton was disappointed in the decision by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) to approve a mixed-use development at Kellyville Ridge despite objections from the surrounding community and the unanimous rejection of the development by the council. Universal Property Group and Blacktown Council are involved in a legal dispute over the developer taking a series of failed development applications to the Land and Environment Court, the Blacktown Advocate reported in September 2012. The developer has $70 million in projects on hold in Blacktown, of which a $30 million, 20-storey mixed development is the largest. In September 2012, Liberal Len Robinson was elected mayor of Blacktown City Council.
Construction of the $115 million Wet n’ Wild Sydney project at Prospect started in September 2012. The water theme park, just off the M4 Motorway on land leased by the Western Sydney Parklands Trust, includes 42 Technicolor slides and will feature a fake
beach, complete with 10-foot waves where surfing and body boarding is allowed. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said Wet n’ Wild Sydney would be a world-class attraction. “It is
anticipated that 900,000 people will visit the park every year, including 175,000 people from
interstate and overseas,” he said. The park, which is being built by Village Roadshow, will create 300 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs. In October 2012, about 50,000 people had registered to buy tickets to the park – well ahead of its scheduled opening in December 2013. The park is expected to generate $500 million in economic activity for the local economy and anchor a clustering effect for associated tourism-related businesses.
The Blacktown precinct is a central industrial hub which has benefited from the opening of the Westlink M7. Major industrial users are attracted to the area for its flexible heavy industrial zoning, close proximity to major arterial road networks and its accessibility to a large pool of skilled labour. Recent leases in the area include 12,000m2 to Linfox and 4,000m2 to M3 Logistics. Another example of business expansion in the area was the 2010 announcement that Hewlett- Packard Australia planned to invest $120 million in a new facility at Eastern Creek. HP started construction in 2011 of a data centre complex on its 13-hectare site with the potential for a second centre at the same location in future. The facility, at the corner of Roberts Road and Capicure Drive in the M7 business hub, created 200 construction jobs, with work completed late in 2011. This is part of a leading employment precinct for Sydney. The Western Sydney Employment Area covers 2,200 hectares around the intersection of the M4 and M7 at Eastern Creek. It has room for
40,000 workers and, as businesses open, more people will make the sprawling site their destination. It was reported in July 2011 that work had started on the Erskine Park Link Road to funnel the workforce on to the M4 and M7. A project update in July 2012 revealed that the concept design for the widening proposal was complete and detailed design work and consultation with adjoining landowners had commenced.
Richmond Road, a significant arterial route stretching from central Blacktown to the north-west, is undergoing a major upgrade. Work started in February 2013 on the $46 million first stage at Marsden Park. It will duplicate a 2km section to create a fourlane
roadway. Work on stage two is expected to start in mid-2014 and be completed in FY2016. The key suburbs of Blacktown City received a boost from
improved parking infrastructure at the train stations at Blacktown, Quakers Hill and Seven Hills. The Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation has provided 747 extra parking spaces at Seven Hills station, 500 more at Blacktown station and 210 spaces at Quakers Hill station. Blacktown City Council said it had been lobbying for more car parks for 15 years, especially at Blacktown station – which is the second busiest rail facility after Central Station. The $25 million development of Seven Hills Commuter Car Park was completed in March 2011. Previously, commuters were forced to park along the roadside in nearby streets as the old multistorey car park filled quickly. Many were subsequently fined for illegal parking by Blacktown Council. All the new car parking spaces are free, untimed and available 24-seven. The Quakers Hill facility and Blacktown upgrade have also been completed. The $42 million Blacktown car park at First Avenue opened in July 2011, with 500 spaces over four levels, a pedestrian link to Humphries Lane, and an area to park bicycles. In addition to the upgraded station facilities, new track is being laid between Quakers Hill and the new Schofields station as part of Stage 1 of the $230 million Richmond Line Duplication project to increase peak hour train services for passengers. Works include an additional 3.1km of track between Quakers Hill and Schofields, overhead wiring and signalling works and a new Schofields Station to be relocated 800 metres closer to Quakers Hill. We believe affordable suburbs with train links to key jobs nodes (such as the Parramatta CBD and the Sydney CBD) have good prospects for capital growth – and the improved parking access for commuters will encourage public transport usage and improve the appeal of these suburbs. This is particularly relevant given the status of Sydney as the fourth most expensive city in the world for CBD parking (according to a global survey by Colliers International). Hotspotting research in Sydney, as well as in Brisbane and Perth, shows that suburbs with commuter rail links have higher capital growth rates (on average) that suburbs without train stations. A major upgrade of parking facilities at Blacktown Station will boost the area’s appeal, with rail connections a key feature. (Photo Michael Hendy)
Education and Health
We like the prospects for Quakers Hill because it has a ready pool of rental demand from the neighbouring education precinct including the University of Western Sydney (Blacktown campus) and Western Sydney Institute of TAFE. Quakers Hill is also surrounded by new housing estates at Kellyville Ridge and Stonecutters Ridge, which tends to lift values in the established suburbs nearby (where homes are cheaper than the new master-planned product).The Quakers Hill nursing home, destroyed by fire in 2011, is being rebuilt in a $25 million project, according to an announcement in February 2013. The new facility will be three times bigger than the previous one, with 79 single rooms and 24 double rooms, plus a dementia wing for up to 127 residents. Its construction will create 150 jobs and the completed facility will employ 130 staff. Blacktown’s appeal includes the combination of educational and medical complexes which translates into strong rental demand. The suburb of Blacktown includes the Blacktown District Hospital and a
TAFE NSW campus, as well as the intersection of two major train lines, the Westpoint and Centro shopping centres, the Ashlar Gold Club and lots of schools and colleges.
The Blacktown District Hospital is undergoing a $325 million re-development. The addition of a new building and refurbishment of existing facilities will add 180 beds. There will be a mental health centre as well as a dedicated cancer centre and a 600-space multi-level car park. The State Government announced in March 2013 that major contracts had been awarded for works at Blacktown Hospital and also at Mount Druitt Hospital. Work on the 20-bed sub-acute mental health unit at Blacktown Hospital would be carried out by ADCO Construction. The Government said the expanded and upgraded sterilising services department at the Blacktown medical campus had been finished and would sterilize 11,000 instrument trays a month.
Major property developments include the Bunya community housing project at Doonside. This Landcom development won the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Best Concept Plan award in 2008, featuring innovative eco-medians for managing stormwater runoff and preserving a historic heritage park site. The Bunya Display Home Village of eight designs from four builders opened in August 2011. Allcastle Homes, Champion Homes, Eden Brae Homes and Wisdom Homes displayed homes built to Landcom design specifications. In 2011 Landcom received development approval to build an 800m2 Community Resource Hub in Bunya, 500m from Doonside Railway Station. It included meeting rooms, community garden and commercial kitchen. Landcom said in March 2013 that over 1,000 people had visited the Bunya sales centre in January and February. It said it had received 500 inquiries for a new land release of 59 home sites in late February. Two business hubs are being planned in western Sydney, including one at Blacktown, creating 1,000-plus jobs. The Blacktown site – between two major arterial roads, the Great Western Highway and the M7 at Eastern Creek – is proposed for retail businesses. The Western Sydney Parklands Trust applied for the creation of two commercial hubs to attract over $200 million in private capital investment. The construction phase will create 750 jobs. Australand has applied to the Blacktown council to redevelop the former Ashlar Golf Course with up to 1,200 homes. Councillors in February 2013 decided to inspect a similar development in Lidcombe before making a decision.
The rollout of the NBN is under way. In October 2011, The Blacktown Advocate reported 11,000 premises in Blacktown would have access to the NBN by 2013. Bunya Estate would be the first residential development in Australia fully-equipped and connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN). According to Landcom the “digital homes of the future” allow high definition TVs, Internet television and movie services, gaming and telecommute conferencing to be used simultaneously. It enabled residents to participate in the digital community with access to business and job opportunities not available without the NBN connection. NBN Co announced in October 2012 that construction of the network links to 2,800 premises in east Blacktown and Seven Hills has begun and would be completed by October 2013.