A US academic who turned down a $170,000 job in Perth because he could only afford to live in a "far-flung, car only" suburb has reignited debate over housing affordability and urban sprawl.
John Renne said that to become professor of sustainable cities at Curtin University would mean sacrificing his family's quality of life because they could not afford to live in a desirable suburb near the city and transport.
_Dr Renne, an associate provost of urban initiatives at the University of New Orleans, said he had watched Perth become one of the world's most expensive cities. _
"Perth is an amazing place but is becoming a victim of its own economic success," he said.
"Perhaps if more dense housing is built near train stations there would be more opportunities for professionals like me to find a reasonable place to live."
Dr Renne lived in Perth in 2001 and 2004-05.
He and wife Kara, who have one child and are expecting another, shopped for a three-bedroom house in suburbs including Fremantle, Mosman Park, Perth, Mt Lawley and Leederville but failed to find something in their price range.
"Despite the generous salary Curtin offered, we could not have lived there without my wife taking a full-time job, which we didn't want to do because she can stay at home now and raise our kids," he said.
"We are drawn to places with life, activity and connectivity, which is why the communities near the rail line appealed to us."
Damian Collins, managing director of property consultants Momentum Wealth, said Dr Renne might have had "unrealistic expectations" but housing density was a problem State and local governments should do more about. "In terms of getting house prices more affordable, we absolutely need more infill," he said.
"If people want to live within short distances of the city or major economic centres like Fremantle, there's just not enough housing. If we want to have more livable cities, cut down on congestion, we need more infill."
Curtin's sustainability professor Peter Newman said affordable housing in modern cities meant going up, while Perth was stuck "going out". Most people could see this and developers planned high-rise developments but they were stopped because a few strident people violently objected to anything over two storeys and politicians listened to them.
"We are driving our city into being globally uncompetitive," he said.
Planning Minister John Day said the Government was tackling urban sprawl through planning reform and infill development.
Housing Minister Bill Marmion said his job was to help low-income people access affordable homes, "not to give high-income earners housing options".