The recently released Victoria’s Housing Statement is the most ambitious set of initiatives for Australia’s second biggest state in its entire housing planning history. As such, it is a significant document worth understanding. In this article we attempt to:
- Provide broad comment on the document
- Seek property industry commentary from Mr Chao Zhang, Partner Stonebridge Property Group
- Summarise the key points of the Statement
Expanding Housing Accessibility
The Victorian government aims to enhance housing accessibility by broadening the Development Facilitation Program (DFP) scope. Previously limited to specific projects, the DFP will now encompass residential undertakings with a minimum development cost of $50 million in Metro Melbourne or $15 million in Regional Victoria, provided that at least 10% of the dwellings are designated as Affordable Housing. Notably, the Minister for Planning will serve as the Responsible Authority and a commitment to rendering decisions within four months from submission is a central feature. While public notice is mandatory, it’s important to note that objectors cannot appeal decisions to VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal), though applicants may exercise this privilege. The expansion of the DFP is accompanied by the recruiting of 90 new planning staff to expedite the process.
Strategic Planning Controls for Housing Expansion
To address housing shortages, Victoria will implement new planning controls to facilitate the construction of 60,000 additional homes. These homes will be distributed across ten designated activity centres in Metropolitan Melbourne, including prominent areas such as Broadmeadows, Camberwell Junction, and Chadstone. The government aims to accommodate population growth and urban expansion by concentrating development in these critical locations.
Transformation of Public Housing Towers
The most ambitious aspect of this plan involves the comprehensive demolition and redevelopment of all 44 existing public housing towers by 2051. This monumental undertaking seeks to increase the availability of public housing by 10% and triple the overall capacity from its current 10,000 residents to an impressive 30,000 residents post-redevelopment. Described as the ‘largest urban renewal opportunity conducted in Victoria’ by the Premier, this endeavour represents a substantial commitment to address housing challenges in the state.
Expanding the ‘Future Homes Program’
Building on its success in Maribyrnong, the ‘Future Homes Program’ will be expanded to encompass General Residential Zone land throughout Victoria. This initiative allows for pre-vetted, three-story apartment designs with applications exempt from third-party appeal rights. The goal is to streamline the approval process and expedite the construction of new housing units.
Simplifying Planning Regulations
In line with the government’s commitment to reducing bureaucracy, they will implement recommendations from the 2021 Red Tape Commissioner Report, focusing on transforming best practices into everyday practice. Additionally, guidance from the 2022 Parliamentary Enquiry into the Better Apartment Design Standards will be implemented. Furthermore, the government will explore the introduction of ‘deemed to satisfy’ provisions, likely involving a review of the existing ResCode provisions.
Transitioning to ‘Plan for Victoria’
The government intends to replace Plan Melbourne with a more comprehensive ‘Plan for Victoria,’ emphasizing the development of 20-minute neighbourhoods. This new approach aims to create communities where essential amenities and services are within a short walk or bike ride, reducing the reliance on cars and promoting sustainability.
Focus on Property Redevelopment
Priority will be given to the redevelopment of properties with significant housing potential. This includes accelerating the delivery of the Arden Precinct, releasing 45 government sites to construct 9,000 homes (with a minimum of 10% designated as affordable housing), and exploring the conversion of office buildings into residential structures in collaboration with the Property Council of Victoria.
The government will also continue its commitment to coordinating priority precincts, such as Fishermans Bend and Docklands, with additional precincts like East Werribee, Footscray, and Sunshine identified for attention.
Streamlined Processes for Smaller Development
Specific measures will be implemented to simplify the application process for smaller developments. Single dwellings on lots smaller than 300 square meters without overlays will gain access to the ‘VicSmart’ process. Furthermore, all single dwellings on lots exceeding 300 square meters will be exempted from requiring a planning permit under the zoning regulations, although overlays will still apply. Notably, ‘granny flats’ up to 60 square meters in size will also be exempted from requiring a planning permit.
Investing in Infrastructure
To support the increased housing development, there will be a heightened focus on investing in infrastructure through the Growth Area Infrastructure Contributions (GAIC) Fund. This fund will finance projects in growth areas to ensure that the necessary infrastructure accompanies new housing.
Efforts will be made to encourage water corporations to collaborate more effectively with developers to streamline approval processes. Ensuring that water supply and infrastructure align with housing development is crucial for the success of these projects.
These measures are part of a broader strategy to improve housing accessibility, affordability, and quality in Victoria. Simultaneously, the government is implementing non-planning reforms, including an AirBnB levy, rental policy changes, and taxation reforms, to enhance the housing market in both sales and rentals. These reforms collectively aim to address the pressing housing challenges faced by Victorians.
While the key strategies have been outlined, further details regarding amendments to the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the functioning of the Victorian Planning System and Councils will be unveiled in due course. Stay informed, as these developments will significantly impact the state’s housing landscape.
2. Interview with Mr Chao Zhang, Practice Partner, Stonebridge Real Estate Group
TAE: Could you walk us through the critical elements of the new Victoria Housing Statement?
CZ: Certainly. The Victoria Housing Statement introduces pivotal planning reforms to boost Melbourne’s housing supply significantly. Notably, it opens up opportunities for developers, allowing them to utilize a State government-led priority process for major projects, mainly residential ones exceeding $50 million in construction cost, offering affordable housing contributions in exchange for additional building height.
TAE: Fascinating. Are there specific locations earmarked for growth under this policy?
CZ: Absolutely. The statement identifies ten activity centres poised for further development. Broadmeadows, Camberwell Junction, Chadstone, Epping, Frankston, Moorabbin, Niddrie (Keilor Road), North Essendon, Preston (High Street), and Ringwood. However, the details on how growth will be accommodated in these centres are yet to be disclosed.
TAE: Intriguing. What are some of the critical takeaways from the document, as highlighted by ProUrban?
CZ: ProUrban has outlined several key takeaways, including state government planners playing a role in clearing a backlog of housing permit applications, a streamlined planning process for large residential projects with affordable housing components, and plans to deliver an additional 60,000 homes across the identified activity centres through more apparent planning controls and incentives for affordable housing.
TAE: Those are significant points. How is the government planning to address existing challenges in the planning process?
CZ: The plan aims to streamline permits for smaller residential projects, review and strengthen building design standards (BADS) for new apartments, explore the conversion of 80 commercial buildings to residential use within the City of Melbourne, and bolster the planning workforce with the hiring of 90 new planners.
TAE: What broader initiatives are outlined in the Victoria Housing Statement?
CZ: The document outlines a comprehensive strategy, including updating Plan Melbourne to become a Plan for Victoria, launching Australia’s largest urban renewal project, and reviewing and rewriting the Planning & Environment Act by 2024. Additionally, the Department of Transport and Planning will lead the delivery and coordination of Priority Precincts, such as Arden, Docklands, Fisherman’s Bend, Footscray, East Werribee, Parkville, and Sunshine.
TAE: That’s certainly ambitious. How is the market expected to respond to these changes?
CZ: The market is anticipated to view these changes positively, considering the potential for increased housing supply, streamlined planning processes, and a comprehensive approach to urban renewal.
This marks a significant step forward for the future of Victoria’s housing.
TAE: Thank you for providing such a detailed overview. We’ll closely watch how these developments unfold in the coming months under a new Victorian cabinet shake-up.
CZ: My pleasure. It’s indeed an exciting time for urban planning and housing in Victoria.
Refer to linked copy of Victorias’ new housing statement here – https://www.vic.gov.au/housing-statement
3. Key Points
- State government planners to play a role in clearing circa 1600 housing permit applications that have been stuck with Council’s for more than 6 months
- Streamlined planning process for residential projects with construction costs in excess of $50m ($15m for regional VIC) and delivering at least 10% affordable housing. This will likely be via the existing Development Facilitation Program framework but the process has now been formalised and enshrined within the Planning scheme. Notably, there are no third party appeal rights for permits approved via this process.
- Deliver additional 60,000 homes in 10 activity centres across Melbourne: Broadmeadows, Camberwell Junction, Chadstone, Epping, Frankston, Moorabbin, Niddrie (Keilor Road), North Essendon, Preston (High Street) and Ringwood. To be achieved by introducing clearer planning controls and new Activity centre plans to guide investment and incentivise affordable housing.
- Streamlined permits for smaller residential projects such as new dwellings where they comply with planning requirements (ie lot size and ResCode).
- Review and strengthen BADS to ensure high standard of liveability for new apartments.
- Explore converting 80 commercial buildings to residential within City of Melbourne.
- DTP to hire 90 new planners to assist with new streamlined planning processes.
- Update Plan Melbourne to make it a Plan for Victoria – target 70% homes in established areas, with the balance in growth areas. This will include targets for LGA’s. Industry consultation to start in the coming month’s – with community engagement next year.
- Review and re-write the Planning & Environment Act to commence in 2024.
- The Department of Transport and Planning is leading the whole-of-government delivery and coordination of Priority Precincts such as Arden, Docklands, Fisherman’s Bend, Footscray, East Werribee, Parkville and Sunshine.
- Launch Australia’s biggest ever urban renewal project: retiring and redeveloping all of Melbourne’s 44 ageing high-rise public housing estates by 2051. Starting with Flemington, Nth Melbourne and Carlton
- No reference to activity centres where SRL stations are proposed, beyond an oblique reference to a Precincts Paper that is currently out for consultation regarding the 6 SRL station precincts
The Asian Executive and Stonebridge Property Group wish to thank proUrban their input into this article. proUruban provide urban advisory, planning and management services to landowners and property developers. They provide these services across a range of sectors, including residential, office, industrial, retail, health, aged care, entertainment and energy. Link: https://pro-urban.com/services/
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