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Plan Melbourne Refresh

Victoria’s Planning Minister, Richard Wynne MP, has today released the report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Plan Melbourne, together with a discussion paper which outlines a range of new ideas that the government is considering to manage Melbourne’s future growth.

With a combined length of over 340 pages there is much to digest, but the following are a few of the housing-related changes suggested by the Government’s discussion paper: A new 70/30 housing target between established and growth area development

The Discussion Paper proposes a policy of achieving 70% of housing supply in established area and 30% in growth corridors. The Paper proposes that the planning system influence the location of new development by measures such as:

  • Introducing sequencing control over future development in Melbourne’s greenfields;

  • Concentrating planning efforts on facilitating housing supply in established areas;

  • Introducing new planning tools to improve the planning approvals process, especially in urban renewal areas.

It will be interesting to see how this target might be realised given the amount of land already approved for development in Melbourne’s greenfields and the apparent limitations on growth created by the new residential zones and various height-limits in activity centres and renewal areas.

A similar policy was established by Melbourne 2030 in the early 2000’s – hopefully the lessons from that era will be learnt – namely that Melbourne won’t achieve a shift in supply of housing to established areas simply by restricting growth on the fringes, and that the planning controls in established areas actually have to allow substantial growth to happen.

A density target of 25 dwellings per hectare in Melbourne’s growth areas

The Paper proposes a minimum housing density in growth areas of 25 dwellings per net hectare for residential areas. This is intended to promote housing diversity in outer suburbs, and also to ensure the retention of large allotments in some locations to accommodate higher density housing.

We look forward to unpacking what 25 dwellings per hectare might mean ‘on the ground’ in a growth area context. We also wonder whether established areas (which are typically already lower density than growth areas) will be also be expected to substantially increase in density through urban infill development?

Reviewing the rollout of residential zones

The first edition of Plan Melbourne 2014 envisaged that the Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) would apply across at least 50 per cent of Melbourne’s residential areas. The Discussion Paper acknowledges that this approach has no real basis to it, and that it would constrain the delivery of housing diversity across established areas. It floats two options in relation to this target – either remove it entirely, or retain it as a guide. It notes that either way clarification is required as to how and when the NRZ should be applied.

A code assess approach to multi dwelling units? The Paper suggests that perhaps Rescode could be replaced with a new code assess approach for new multi unit dwelling developments. This approach is already being utilised in the growth areas with the Small Lot Housing Code, however implementing this in established areas will no doubt be challenging. A code assess approach would provide increased certainty and reduce the cost of developing medium-density housing and so might be expected to improve the supply and affordability of such housing in established areas. Affordable housing and inclusionary zoning Minister Wynne’s introduction to the discussion paper announces affordable housing as the first of four “big questions that can no longer be ignored”. The paper flags the introduction of planning tools such as inclusionary zoning (where developments must contribute to non-market affordable housing via land, dwellings or cash) and incentive zoning (where developments that include affordable housing may be allowed increased development outcomes such as additional building height).

Submissions are being taken on Plan Melbourne Refresh until Friday 18 December 2015.

View the Plan Melbourne Refresh here.

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