The planning industry has been waiting for some time for the release of guidelines on the development of high rise apartments in Victoria. This is largely a result of the uncertainty, at both local government and VCAT, regarding acceptable levels of internal amenity and also the hot issue of ‘equitable development potential’.
Some decision makers will not accept south facing apartments but others will, some will accept studio style dwellings for less than 20% of the overall mix yet others form the view if it is good enough for one then it is good enough for all. Some decision makers will allow saddle back apartments and others won’t. Increasingly nine metres is deemed an acceptable separation to achieve ‘equitable development’ but in some instances this may or may not be appropriate for primary outlooks compared with secondary outlooks. In some areas such as Fishermans Bend the preferred setback between buildings is 20 metres.
The increased emphasis on providing new housing in the form of high rise apartment buildings in recent years and now further emphasised through the new Residential Zone regime, has placed considerable pressure on all parties. Clear guidance on what constitutes reasonable outcomes is necessary and I think developers, architects and planners alike would embrace such a document providing that it allows for innovation, flexibility and performance based outcomes.
I couldn’t agree more with Craig Yelland and his concern that the implementation of guidelines based on SEPP 65 in New South Wales will result in a rise in property prices and a furthering of the gap in affordable housing in Victoria. Given the challenge Melburnians face entering the property market, maintaining a supply of affordable housing must be a high priority.
There is a clear opportunity for guidelines to be introduced that will address a range of important issues without having a significant impact on affordability, including:
The key is that these guidelines must be performance based. They must establish decision guidelines that steer thinking on various issues to ensure that the best outcomes are found. Using a format, such as that found in ResCode could provide for such certainty, with flexibility for different design outcomes. An approach, consistent with the Tribunal’s interpretation of ResCode, where meeting the Standard automatically is deemed as meeting the objective, would also provide certainty. Importantly, the structure would provide for flexibility to make a case for variations, taking into consideration the decision guidelines.
While I am not a believer in the setting of mandatory minimum sizes for dwellings, to start a rational debate, I would suggest the following as an example of how the Guidelines could be written in a manner that provides greater certainty but allow for innovation in design and taking into consideration affordability.
To ensure that the size of dwellings meet the likely needs of future occupants.
Before deciding whether a dwelling is suitably sized, the responsible authority must consider the following:
The preparation of the guidelines must be done as a priority and provide for flexibility and innovation in design while not having the effect of increasing the already high price of housing in Victoria. The input from a wide range of architects and other associated professionals, including lighting engineers can significantly inform the debate and I encourage them to be heard and make a submission.
Colleen Peterson is the managing director at Ratio Consultants. Follow Colleen on Twitter.