Residents in Sydney’s sleepy suburb of Epping are getting used to the sound of developers knocking at their doors.
“Twenty? We’ve had that and then some come to the door in the past 18 months,” Cliff Street resident Joy Dunkerley told AFR Weekend.
Epping is the city’s latest suburb to be gazetted as an Urban Activation Precinct – planner’s speak which means its rows of 1920s workers’ cottages are fair game for apartment blocks up to five storeys high, with prices piling up in the same way.
Developers want a slice of the suburb, 20 kilometres north-west of the city centre. This means owners think they can get prices triple what they were offered two years ago. And the developers seem to agree.
The Dunkerley family home, an elegant bungalow on a generous 850 square metres, was valued at $1.2 million in early 2012. Nowadays, the family are entertaining offers nearly three times that price.
“We originally wanted the area to be put under heritage zoning, but we eventually got over it when we realised [the rezoning] was a done deal,” Ms Dunkerley said.
“It’s a bit like winning the lottery,” long-time Cliff Street homeowner Tim Robertson* said. Epping’s average house price has risen at least 25 per cent in less than 18 months.
Mr Robertson has also had more than 20 developers knock at his door in the past 18 months. Agents in the area say the knocking will only get louder.
“From a developer’s point of view, the increased density in an area so close to jobs and great transport like a major train line . . . you can’t go past it,” Ray White Commercial NSW head Jeff Moxham said.
“Prior to the rezoning, there just wasn’t any land left to build on.”
A well-established Chinese population in the community also makes it an attractive entry point for Chinese developers capitalising on demand for housing in Sydney, Mr Moxham said.
Epping is one of eight areas – including North Ryde station, Randwick and Carter Street in Lidcombe – in close reach of jobs and good public transport to be designated by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure for higher-density development.
Rezoning is expected to dramatically increase the value of land in these precincts, but residents are likely to come under pressure to sell as the area experiences rapid changes in density, building heights and traditional suburban character, Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson said.
“The rezoning will change the suburb’s character, but it’s a reality that’s going to have to happen more often if people want to live in affordable housing close to jobs and transport,” he said.
“But the uplift for people in these houses is that they will come out of it significantly better off financially.”
But while some residents are buoyed by sales such as a home on Rosebank Avenue that fetched $3.5 million, others say lowballing is common.
“We’ve had people walk through the door and say in their best voice they’ll give us $1 million for our home, as if we’ve no clue what it’s worth,” Mr Robertson said.
Neighbour Paul Jones* worries elderly residents may be taken advantage of. “I just don’t think the department and the council have done enough to let residents know what these changes mean to them,” he said.
Residents who live within the suburb but outside of the UAP worry about the value of their homes when the suburb of cottages turns into apartments.
Tim Robertson says residents have been living with a “ticking clock” since talk of rezoning surfaced in 2010. “I never wanted to leave, but I was worried that I’d be the only [freestanding home] left,” he said.
The rezoning has been a boon for the former aeronautical engineer, who was made redundant two years ago. But where will he move to?
“I’ll have to make sure I’m far enough out from the centre that this will never happen again.”