By Janette Corcoran
Melbourne’s by-election for the lord mayor is fast approaching – but how well do the 14 candidates understand vertical living and what do they offer our burgeoning vertical villages?
We vertical dwellers know intimately the appeal and challenges of high-rise living. On the one hand, there are the positives of proximity and paring down but also there are negatives of noise and neighbours unknown. However, these little capture what is distinct about our vertical lifestyle and it remains a cross to bear that many government decision-makers have only a superficial appreciation of our problems and possibilities (oh, the saving potential of communal procurement!).
Yet this new way of living is already mainstream within the City of Melbourne, which currently claims a residential population in the high density precincts of Docklands, Southbank and the CBD of over 80,000 which, by 2037, is expected to increase to more than 150,000.
However, as the lord mayor is not required to live within the city, the question becomes how well do these 14 candidates understand our different way of living?
Do they have empathy for this fast growing yet still emerging lifestyle?
And how will each of these candidates ensure we move away from a “ghettos in the sky” scenario to a vertical village future?
With this in mind, all 14 candidates were asked two questions and a 100-word response was requested:
What do you consider to be the three top issues for people living in high-rise, high-density precincts in the City of Melbourne?
How will you address these issues?
What follows are the responses of the eight candidates who had something to say (listed in reverse order of draw):
We need to see state legislation or local bylaws enshrining the right to keep pets in rental properties, as well as the development of more parks and gardens for everyone’s use. I also want to reduce the cost of living by using site value rather than capital improved value rates for all property. This will promote development of the city and lower the rates payable on most properties. I will also promote the rights of body corporates to decide the legitimate uses for the building, giving local control over short-stays.
High density inner city living residents face a shortage of open space, lack of communal facilities in their own buildings and disruptions by short-term stays. To improve the lack of open space, council can look at using some under-utilised small roads and lanes and pedestrianise them. New open spaces in the inner-city can be created. Maybe some unused rooftop space can be used too. Secondly, council can change the planning scheme to include specific communal facilities to be include in all new high rise buildings. For the short-term stay matter, with some state government help, council can implement registration of all short-terms operators and introduce a levy for all operators for additional contribution to the building’s maintenance sinking fund. Also, there should be clear rules for the operations of short-term stays in the OC Act.
Residents are feeling caged within the building and suffer from the absence of open community space and after hours shopping. Crime is making residents feel vulnerable and isolated. The lack of schools and safe places for children to play is a big problem. Many high-rise families are feeling depressed and anxious. Recommend performance-based, cost-effective planning that will enable design standards to deliver high quality apartments – particularly, internal living spaces that are better for occupants. Liaise with residents to achieve mandatory standards. Plan for emerging issues of car parking, noise, natural ventilation and crime.
For Melbourne residents living in high-rises, it’s vital that the council protects their amenity by maintaining the heritage of Melbourne by preventing over-development such as the proposed $250+ million to be spent on the Queen Victoria Market site. Releasing these funds will allow council to improve services for inner-city residents and make Melbourne a better business and tourist hub increasing retail and entertainment employment and promoting new business opportunities. As lord mayor I will aggressively pursue the interests of residents by tackling the state government (Liberal or Labor) by presenting accurate data to the government for how important issues should be handled.
Affordability, liveability and access to services and activities are the top issues for high-density precincts. High-density living is becoming more popular as the resident population grows and it is imperative we ensure that high-rises can foster community. This includes making sure new developments have access to public transport and communal green spaces. It is important that these spaces are activated through arts and cultural events to celebrate community and bring visitors to these areas.
Australia is building too many poor quality high-rise apartment towers that are alienating to live in and have low environmental performance. As our city grows, I believe access to public open space is the key issue for residents living in apartments. If elected, I will ensure that the open space contribution made by developers is actually spent on high-rise residents. I will also lobby the state government for stronger powers for owners’ corporations to sanction residents who don’t pay their fees, prevent dangerous and flammable materials being used in new high-rise construction and boost funding for high-rise community services including neighbourhood houses, schools and health care facilities.
Very poor forward planning has been detrimental to residents in high-rise, high-density precincts and to the city at large. You cannot create or support a community without infrastructure, public transport, open spaces and schools. There has been a long-standing practice of developments going ahead, using every square inch of available space, with the only concern being maximising profits. We need to develop policies which demand the expectation of design excellence so these buildings will serve their communities for generations. I will advocate for policy settings which demand design excellence and create prosperous high-rise communities into the future. If I am elected lord mayor, a priority will be making sure Fishermans Bend has all the necessary infrastructure from the beginning of its redevelopment and better design standards suitable for community living introduced.
I see the top three issues for people living in high-rise, high-density precincts in the City of Melbourne as being: The impact of commercial short stay accommodation on owner-occupant amenity, owners’ corporation costs and building wear and tear; The fragmented private waste collection market and the noise and disruptive impacts of multiple trucks servicing the same buildings multiple times; and Poor or poorly-advertised construction management plans for buildings, and on-street utility upgrades, disrupting access.
I intend to address these issues by: Advocating strongly to the state government for modern building, planning and owners’ corporation laws that regulate different accommodation types fairly; incentivise owners’ corporations and waste companies to use communal waste compactors and food digesters, greatly reducing truck collections; and instigate a new transparent web tool to clearly set out all planned on-street disruptions and building construction times in the central city, accessed by all.
The three top issues are:
- Residents’ amenity being affected by growth in Airbnb.
- Lack of services like schools and public transport.
- Poor planning outcomes leading to ‘dead zones’, like some areas of Docklands.
I intend to:
- Work with residents and the tourism industry to identify ways in which, through legislation and regulation, more onus is placed on owners to take responsibility for people in their properties.
- Authorities and other decision makers failed to predict the growth in high-density precincts. Because of this failure, we need to retrospectively add in service such as vertical schools. Traffic flows also haven’t been well planned – we need to tweak things like signalling to ensure better traffic flows.
- We need go back to basics about what makes vibrant communities. Attracting the right businesses and right community assets such as libraries and arts precincts is vital if we are to bring more vibrancy to those high density areas that are the victim of poor past planning.
So fellow voting vertical villagers, it is now for you to decide how well the above responses from these eight candidates resonate with your experience of vertical living. And maybe keep in mind that, for those candidates that did not respond, past behaviour tends to be a good predictor of future behaviour. Something to consider.