Neighbours to lose in push on housing

Neighbours to lose in push on housing

Neighbours could lose the right of appeal against permits for multistorey apartment towers as part of the state government’s push for more affordable housing in a city hurtling towards 6.5 million people.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy will on Wednesday unveil rules making it easier for high-density residential development to be approved under a 40-year metropolitan planning strategy.

One initiative will include a new red-tape-busting system to fast-track planning permit approvals in areas slated for significant housing growth. Local councils would assist in earmarking those areas where the rules would apply.

Mr Guy said the Plan Melbourne strategy would set permanent urban growth boundaries to prevent further sprawl. ”We are not going to grow the next 30 years like we have the last 30 years … and our growth area suburbs are going to start looking different.”

The strategy is also expected to see inner Melbourne’s population double in size, according to the Planning Institute of Australia.

”It’s a major announcement for planning … we just need everybody to shift their focus on implementation,” state president Brett Davis said.

But other industry sources said the strategy ”lacked ambition” and ”was more of the same”.

Building groups said while the plan provided clarity for big developers, there was little support for infill development and ”mum and dad” builders.

The strategy states Melbourne will need an extra 1 million dwellings by 2050, the bulk of which would be apartments or townhouses rather than detached homes. The majority of new dwellings will also be built in established areas as opposed to outer suburbs where the city’s growth has previously been centred.

Under the rules to fast-track affordable housing, developers behind multistorey residential buildings that meet certain guidelines will not be required to notify residents or be subject to third-party appeals. The changes are hoped to cut costs for developers.

Mr Guy said reducing construction costs and house prices while increasing urban density was crucial to cater for the needs of a ballooning population. He said he understood some residents would be opposed to the plans. ”But at least the public know what areas the government and councils expect to change rather than just waking up and saying, ‘My god, 12 storeys are going here and everything else around it is two’. They will know the whole precinct is changing, or the whole precinct will remain relatively similar.”

Mr Guy likened the urban planning process to ”walking either side of a barbed-wire fence. … You’ve got to manage people’s expectations for their suburbs with the desire of particularly councils to get greater density throughout it. And doing both means you have to define those areas and people need to know about it, otherwise they get hurt.”

President of the Municipal Association of Victoria Bill McArthur hopes the new authority would have the power to enforce the reforms.

Mr McArthur said the previous Melbourne 2030 strategy was a solid planning document, but it was undermined by the Labor government’s failure to implement it.

He said it resulted in housing developments rolling out without basic infrastructure and services.

“We know there will be a new Metropolitan Planning Authority to implement Plan Melbourne and the critical question is how it will operate,” he said.

“This Metropolitan Planning Authority should be able to mobilise partnerships with regional councils, facilitate land acquisitions and investment and raise funds to deliver crucial infrastructure and services.”

The strategy also outlines tougher design guidelines to improve liveability in new apartment towers. In a move to boost accommodation for Victoria’s poorest, companies that include public housing in their developments will be offered reductions in developer contributions. It will also outline a ”State of Cities”, with Bacchus Marsh, Ballan, Broadford, Kilmore, Warragul and Wonthaggi designated new major growth towns. The plan will likely be out for consultation until December 5.

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