VPELA seminar on Melbourne's Housing Equation

At the start of June, I along with another Collie staff member attended a VPELA seminar that focused on housing affordability and design. Four guest speakers from a diverse range of professions including Urbanxchange, Elenberg Fraser, Breathe Architecture and the Property Council of Australia shared their thoughts on Melbourne’s current housing supply and the types of housing supply required to meet housing needs for all.

In the seminar there was a particular focus on apartment style development, which is topical given the recent release of the ‘Better Apartments Discussion Paper’ by the State Government.

It was agreed by all speakers that more affordable housing is required to accommodate the thousands of Melburnians who for various reasons are unable to either rent or purchase a house at market price. It was raised by a number of speakers that the State Planning Policy Framework currently lacks direction on this issue and individual Councils often do not moderate expectations on affordable housing with what is feasible from a developer profit perspective.

An example of a good initiative, was in the City of Port Phillip where a developer was granted approval to construct a bonus three levels for providing some affordable housing. This example could be implemented on a more regular basis through incentive based zoning, which has been highly successful in Vancouver in providing community facilities.

In relation to appropriate design, most speakers linked this topic directly to apartments and the possible introduction of an apartment design code following the ‘Better Apartments Discussion Paper’. There was a general consensus, and Collie agrees, that apartment size should not be mandatory as this would stifle apartment design.

Innovative and creative design to use smaller spaces, and in some cases use the same space for multiple purposes, is a way of delivering apartments that provide a high level of amenity. An example of the creative use of space was illustrated in a video where the layout of an apartment of just 8 square metres in Paris could be reconfigured virtually instantly to accommodate a single bed, a table and chairs, a book shelf and additional wardrobe / storage space.

Whilst 8 square metres is generally considered to be an unacceptable size for a dwelling, the video illustrated how creative design in small spaces can achieve liveable and functional space. We acknowledge however, that such innovative / good examples are the exceptions that are more difficult to write into planning controls.

In addition, use of the same space by many residents is more efficient and can foster a sense of community in situations where it may not normally occur. An example was given in which a high rise apartment building contained several shared facilities such as a gym, pool, library, lounge or dining room.

Apartment design also tied into with the affordability issue where for example, forgoing a larger apartment with a dining room for a smaller apartment that relies on using a shared dining room can increase affordability for the purchaser.

Examples of creative and innovative design were also highlighted by Breathe Architecture, the architects who designed the Commons apartment development adjacent to Anstey train station and the Upfield bike path in Brunswick. In an effort to reduce costs, many elements were removed in the construction and marketing of this development that many other developers would consider to be essential, such as car parking, air conditioning, individual laundries, a real estate agent and a marketing team.

The development was able to compensate for the loss of some of these elements through the provision of green and solar roofing with a communal laundry, a dedicated car share service and bicycle parking. Exposed concrete ceilings and not tiling the bathrooms were further examples of savings in the cost of construction, which allowed Breathe Architecture to deliver a more affordable housing product.

Collie is in the process of making a submission in response to the Better Apartments Discussion Paper which will be made available on our web site in due course.

This article appeared on Collie's website on June 5th. Michael Collie is Director at Collie Pty Ltd, a multi-disciplinary Southbank-based firm with interests in strategic planning, development planning, urban design and landscape architecture.


Development & Planning

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 12:00
The swirl of development activity in Footscray has found another gear as new projects are submitted for approval, or are on the verge of beginning construction. Two separate planning applications have been advertised by Maribyrnong City Council; their subsequent addition to the Urban Melbourne Project Database has seen the overall number of apartment developments within Footscray in development swell to 40.

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00
The marriage of old and new can be a difficult process, particularly when the existing structure has intrinsic heritage value. In previous times Fitzroy's 237 Napier Street served as the home of furniture manufacturer C.F. Rojo and Sons. Taking root during 1887, Christobel Rojo oversaw operations though over time the site would become home to furniture manufacturer Thonet.

Visual Melbourne

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 07:00
The former site of John Batman's home, Batman's Hill is entering the final stages of its redevelopment. Collins Square's final tower has begun its skyward ascent, as has Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter Commercial and Residential precinct already. Melbourne Quarter's first stage is at construction and involves a new 12-storey home for consultancy firm Arup along with a skypark.


Transport & Design

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 12:00
When a site spans 19,280 square metres, it becomes a 'district'. That's the case according to the development team behind the Jam Factory's pending overhaul. Reporting on the project to date has focused on the close to 60,000 square metres of new commercial space that is earmarked for the site, but more importantly from a layperson's perspective is the extensive new public realm that is planned as part of the development.

Sustainability & Environment

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00
Cbus Property's office development for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street in Docklands recently became the first Australian existing property to receive a WELL Certification, Gold Shell and Core rating. The WELL rating goes beyond sustainable building features with a greater focus on the health and well-being of a building's occupants.