Melbourne's urban landscape is increasingly densifying with what appears to be a constant supply of residential development geared towards investors in inner city and medium ring suburbs. As supply and choice increases, it becomes ever important for those choosing to invest in an inner city dwelling to consider investment criteria about and within a suburb to ensure that when you buy an apartment, you are buying maximum value for dollar. Such criteria may include cost per square metre, proximity to amenity and public transport and owner versus renter breakdown, but one factor that is gaining increased gravity with investors is a suburb's walkability.
Walkability is a points system derived by Walk Score and uses accessibility and proximity for residents to people, places, attractions and transportation options amongst other considerations to determine how walk friendly a suburb is for those who choose to reside within it. The aim of this scoring system is to promote healthier, happier and more sustainable lifestyles by pointing potential renters to areas which gives them more lifestyle options and subsequently provides investors a good guide on which areas are potentially a good investment.
Research on the local Melbourne property market conducted by advocate firm Secret Agent suggests that prices can rise by up to $298 per square metre for a five point increase on the Walk Score scale which works out to approximately $60 per square metre per point. As a comparison, lets take two inner south suburbs of South Yarra and Elwood and compare an average 60 square metre apartment. The Walk Score of South Yarra according to the scale is 92 compared to Elwood's 84, which is a difference of 8 Walk Score points. Based on the Walk Score price guide alone, a purchaser would be paying on average approximately $480/sqm more in South Yarra than in Elwood. Obviously there are many other factors that affect an investors decision, but the main idea is to use the Walk Score as a guide when selecting a good investment.
Unsurprisingly, Melbourne's most walkable suburbs are located in the inner city and more to the point in the inner north with Carlton (currently with 10 residential projects listed on Urban Melbourne's project database) taking the crown as Numero Uno with a Walk Score of 97 out of a possible 100. Carlton is closely followed by it's inner city neighbours, Fitzroy (96) and Fitzroy North (93) in second and third place. Melbourne in its entirety is second in Australia with a Walk Score of 57 compared to Sydney which has a Walk Score of 63.
What is alarming though, and again not surprising to most people that live in Melbourne, is that once you spread out beyond the sought after inner city suburbs, the Walk Score drops off dramatically and provides a very clear insight into Melbourne's car dependency. For example, Truganina, a new suburban development area located in the outer western boundaries of Melbourne, has a poultry Walk Score of just 20 and is classed as Melbourne's 328th most walkable suburb. Those that read Urban Melbourne regularly know that the message will always advocate for smarter planning that revolves around infrastructure and amenity, similar virtues to what the Walk Score aims to exemplify. So to see a score down in at the bottom of the barrel such as Truganina's, it beggars the question - why suburban developments are allowed to continue to eat up more land and to keep people in their cars which adds no value to the public realm?
At the end of the day, most people if they had a choice would choose to live near amenity and services and not have to rely on the car as much, but it is an unfortunate fact that today Melbourne is a car dependent city due to its suburban sprawl. To combat this and to ultimately improve the lifestyle of Melbourne's citizen's, urban densification is crucial by way of increased residential and commercial development to ensure that more people can live, work and play in close proximity to better and healthier lifestyle options.