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Lengthy city commutes erode family life | report

A quarter of full-time workers spend more time commuting than with their children.

The nation's "broken" cities are forcing workers to live further away from their jobs, dividing younger from older generations and leading to costly commuting that is eroding family life.

The Grattan Institute's first book, City Limits, says the number of people spending more than 10 hours a week commuting has jumped 50 per cent since 2005, leading to a quarter of full-time workers spending more time commuting than with their children.

Fewer than 10 per cent of all jobs can be reached within a 45-minute drive

And the problem is growing, with more than half of the growth in jobs over the past decade occurring within 10km of the city centre, but more than half the population growth more than 20km outside the city­centre. In the sprawling suburban outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, fewer than 10 per cent of all jobs can be reached within a 45-minute drive.

"The growing divide between where people live and where they work is leading to congested roads, stretched household budgets, and growing pressure on social life," said City Limits co­author Paul Donegan.

Source: Grattan Institute Source: Grattan Institute

Jane-Frances Kelly, his co-author, said cities were "the engines of our economy, producing nearly 80 per cent of national income, yet policy makers must address failures in housing, tax and transport to ensure our economic and social future". The book, to be released today, recommends a major overhaul of Australia's zoning and public transport planning to make Australia's five biggest cities more liveable and equitable. "The most important thing is to simplify the convoluted local government rules and processes involved in getting approval to build new homes in established areas," Mr Donegan said.

Many outer-suburban families have no choice but to drive

Deposits for home buyers were a much larger share of incomes than a generation ago, leading to falling rates of home ownership except for the over-55s. "Too many people are cut off from access to job opportunities by a dysfunctional housing market," he said.

He also stressed the importance of better public transport to cut commuting times and improve quality of life, singling out Perth. "Here's a city with the lowest density of the big five but it has provided rail services that are effective in getting people to jobs and are tailored to modern suburban conditions: the trains run more quickly because the stations are sensibly spaced, and there are good buses," he said.

The book argues many outer-suburban families have no choice but to drive, and profiles a Melbourne couple with children in Epping North who spend $900 a month on petrol and parking.

The Grattan book comes a week after the federal government cracked down on foreigners found to have illegally bought existing dwellings, and the introduction of new fees for purchase of established dwellings.

The book also suggests winding back negative gearing tax concessions and curbing the capital gains tax discount for investment properties.