Today’s Census data reveals that there are 22,900 more Canberrans than the Government previously assumed - 5.3% of all Canberrans, or slightly under the population of Weston Creek.

This 11,400 per year growth in population from 2016-2021 compares with the ~7,000 assumed in the 2018 Planning Strategy, a substantial underestimation of needed housing supply.

While the ACT Government’s Residential Supply and Demand Model (which Greater Canberra obtained through FOI) assumed it would take until 2026 for the ACT to reach a population of 450,000, the latest Census data shows the ACT has already hit this mark. This is the model that the ACT Government uses to ensure that housing supply keeps up with population growth, and it is half a decade behind the ball.

“The Census reveals that the ACT’s planning strategy and housing supply models are drastically off target and off track. It’s time for Canberra to act decisively to create a planning system that can accommodate this higher level of growth, by providing for more gentle density in our inner city areas, allowing more Canberrans to live near jobs and family.” - Howard Maclean, Convenor

The Census data also reveals that Canberra’s median rents have risen $2,000 a year in real terms from 2016 to 2021, the second highest increase of all the capital cities.This is a symptom of a planning system that is failing to provide adequate housing supply, and Canberrans are paying for it in rising living costs, rents and house prices.

“Rising rents have made the around 52,000 Canberran families who rent poorer, and sucked tens of millions of dollars out of the local economy. This is a crisis driven by failures in our planning system, with the costs falling most heavily on the most vulnerable in our city.”

The latest Census data also shows that the parts of the ACT with the highest unmeasured population growth are predominantly on the peripheries of the city, most notably in Molonglo Valley, Belconnen, and Tuggeranong.

“We need our inner city areas to pull their weight when it comes to new housing supply. Without reforms to our planning laws to allow more medium-density apartments and townhouses, we’ll continue to lock Canberrans out of the parts of our city with the most jobs and amenities, which means longer commutes and more carbon emissions.” - Maclean

Greater Canberra’s submission on the new Planning Bill recommends that the Government remove friction in the planning system to enable the delivery of much needed housing supply, amenities, and other infrastructure in a timely fashion. The 2021 Census further demonstrates the pressing need for more bold reform in the planning space.

“Canberrans deserve a more affordable, sustainable and liveable city. The new Planning Bill is a huge opportunity to bring it about, but the ACT Government must embrace stronger reform of the planning system. The 2021 Census highlights the urgency of this task.”

Greater Canberra will continue to advocate for reforms to planning laws to prioritise more sustainable and affordable housing as part of the new Territory Plan, which will be released for public consultation later this year.

About Greater Canberra

Greater Canberra is a community advocacy group committed to affordable and high-quality housing in Canberra. We believe in a future where housing is abundant, and where everyone can enjoy a more sustainable and liveable city. For more information, see