City apartment affordability fears

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has started the long-anticipated debate on standards for apartment construction with the release last month of a discussion paper, ‘Better Apartments’.

While most people agree on the need for standards relating to adequate natural light, ventilation and privacy, it is feared that mandated minimum size will adversely affect affordability.

The Property Industry Council estimates that a 50sqm apartment could cost $90,000 more than a 40sqm inner city apartment.

The Property Council’s Victorian executive director Jennifer Cunich said: “Disappointingly, the discussion paper barely mentions housing affordability which should be the Government’s number one priority.”

“Consideration of housing affordability must remain front and centre. A five square metre increase in size can add as much as $45,000 to the price of an apartment.”

According to the paper, another 480,000 apartments will be needed in Melbourne alone to accommodate a projected population of 7.7 million by 2051.

“Melbourne is set to house almost 100,000 new residents each year and we need to plan for that growth,” Mr Wynne said.

Ms Cunich said the industry was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the standards but also warned that developers would not support the outcome unless they co-authored with other stakeholders the final standard.

“History in this policy space has shown that design standards developed without industry support have failed to meet the expectations of their authors, facilitators or the broader community,” she said.

Mr Wynne said: “This is more than establishing minimum standards, it’s about keeping pace with how people want to live.”

The Better Apartments discussion paper raises a number of issues relating to apartment design in Victoria, including: Lack of natural light; Apartments too small or poorly designed; Achieving a quality outlook for all apartments; Lack of natural ventilation; External noise; Access to outdoor space; and Long-term adaptability of apartment buildings.

Submissions on the discussion paper are due next month and community forums and industry roundtable events will also be held. Draft guidelines will be released in late 2015 and the final report will be handed to the Minister in mid 2016.

Ms Crunich said: “Flexibility must also be at the centre of any reform push as regulated controls invariably stifle design creativity and the ability of developers to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse housing market.”

“Any move to reform Melbourne’s design guidelines should only be undertaken after serious and extensive consultation with the businesses responsible for delivering it.”

“Developers recognise that issues like poor design and lighting need to be effectively addressed. The best way to achieve this is by working co-operatively with the sector,” she said.

To view the Better Apartments discussion paper visit www.dewlp.vic.gov.au/better-apartments

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