Major Amendments, with major implications for housing and development in Victoria


Major Amendments, with major implications for housing and development in Victoria



Major Amendments, with major implications

Following the Housing Statement (September 20 2023), two follow-up planning scheme amendments have now been approved.

Major Amendments, with major implications

Further to our article regarding the recently released Victoria’s Housing Statement, two follow-up planning scheme amendments have now been approved outlining some of the initiatives contained within that Statement.

Amendment VC242: Development Facilitation Program

The expansion of the existing Development Facilitation Program (DFP) to expedite faster planning approvals for larger commercial or residential projects (that have affordable housing) has been confirmed through the insertions of Clauses 53.22 (Significant Economic Development) and 53.23 (Significant Residential Development with Affordable Housing) into the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP).

The provisions are a voluntary opt in pathway subject to meeting specific development criteria. Transitional provisions ensure that they do not apply to applications lodged prior to the approval of VC242 on 20/9/23 or a section 72 amendment to a permit if the original permit was lodged before 20/9/23.

Applications will still be subject to notice requirements including notice to the relevant municipal council however, they will be exempt from third party review at VCAT.  Applications are required to be accompanied by written advice from the Chief Executive Officer from Invest Victoria, which confirms the likely financial feasibility and investment certainty of the proposal.  The DFP also recommend engaging with the Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA) prior to lodgement, noting that design reviews may be part of the DFP process.

Clause 53.23 ‘Significant Residential Development with Affordable Housing’ is a particular provision that allows for certain accommodation land uses and development to be considered by the Minister for Planning as the Responsible Authority via the Development Facilitation Program.

The provisions of Clause 53.23 prevail over any inconsistent provision of the planning scheme and it allows for the DFP to waive or vary the minimum garden area requirement and/ or any building height or setback requirement.

For a proposed residential development to be eligible for this assessment stream, “the estimated cost of the development of land for accommodation (other than camping and caravan park, group accommodation and residential hotel) as specified in the quantity surveyor report required … must be at least $50 million if any part of the land is in metropolitan Melbourne; or $15 million if the land is not in metropolitan Melbourne.”

Also, at least 10 percent of the total number of dwellings in the development must be affordable housing. Equivalent contributions via the gifting of dwellings or a donation to the Social Housing Growth Fund may also be available.

While the threshold for the cost of development is applicable to both streams, ot is worthwhile noting that the Media Release announcing these reforms stated:

If these projects do not meet this criteria, the Minister for Planning can still approve a project if it delivers more than 10 per cent affordable housing, or if it demonstrates best practice design and environmental standards – working to support more longer term rental options for Victorians.

The Minister for Planning will be the responsible authority for all DFP applications, with a commitment to a four-month assessment timeframe, bolstered by an additional 90 staff appointments.

The incentive for a developer to provide affordable housing relates to:

  • DFP being the decision maker and thus avoiding the normal Council planning permit process.
  • The commitment of DFP to making decisions within 4 months from lodgement.
  • The avoidance of any risk attributed to third party objector reviews to VCAT.

It will be interesting to see if these timing and process incentives are enough to stimulate the private market into offering affordable housing as part of larger developments.

Amendment VC243: Residential Standards, Future Homes and Single Dwellings

Amendment VC243 proposes a range of changes designed to support faster permits and planning certainty.

 Future Homes

The Department of Transport and Planning (DTP) Future Homes program has been running as a pilot program in the City of Maribyrnong that will expand statewide through the insertion of a new particular provision at Clause 53.24.


  • The provisions of this Clause prevail over any inconsistent provision in this planning scheme.
  • Exempts applications from third party appeals.

Future Homes makes architectural designs for 3-storey apartment projects available for purchase and enables faster planning approvals for developments using the designs in prescribed areas.

The amendment will enable Future Homes plans and processes to be used in the General Residential Zone and within 800 metres of an Activity Centre or railway station. It includes Neighbourhood Activity Centres, which are often difficult to define, but does not apply to GRZ land affected by the Heritage Overlay or Neighbourhood Character Overlay.

At first glance, this provision has significant implications for large areas of GRZ across Melbourne. It is surprising that it is not applicable only to say a higher order road.

Council CEOs have been specified as the Responsible Authority for assessment and approval of these applications.

We understand more designs will be added to the Future Homes program within the next 12 months, including 4 and 5 storey designs.

Codification of residential development standards

Fourteen residential development standards have been immediately codified through amendments to clauses 54 and 55. These 14 standards are:

  • Street setback A3/B6
  • Building height A4/B7
  • Site coverage A5/B8
  • Permeability A6
  • Side and rear setbacks A10/B17
  • Walls on boundaries A11/B18
  • Daylight to existing windows A12/B19
  • North‐facing windows A13/B20
  • Overshadowing open space A14/B21
  • Overlooking A15/B22
  • Daylight to new windows A16/B27
  • Private open space A17/B28
  • Storage B30
  • Front fences A20/B32

In short, if a proposal meets the Standard, it is deemed to meet the corresponding Objective, and the associated Decision Guidelines are not relevant. This will resolve oft had debate at VCAT and reinforces an old favourite decision, Li Chak Lai v Whitehorse CC (No.1) [2005] VCAT 1274.

The building height and front fences standards are also modified by deleting requirements that involve a discretionary assessment. ‘Deemed to Comply’ matters will no longer be considered by VCAT.

 As outlined by the Government, the remaining 39 standards will be reviewed and finalised by September 2024, following targeted consultation.

Single dwellings

Amendment VC243 also amends the Township Zone, General Residential Zone and Neighbourhood Residential Zone to remove the ability to specify in a schedule to the zone that a planning permit is required to construct or extend one dwelling or construct/extend a fence a lot of 300 square metres or more and to remove the permit requirement from all zone schedules.

On lots under 300 square metres in size, a new VicSmart application class will be created for approvals within 10 days. This will apply in Mixed Use, Township, Residential Growth, General Residential and Neighbourhood Residential Zones.

More information

We look forward to providing further insights into these amendments in the near future and we would be pleased to assist with further advice on these significant changes – particularly for those with projects in planning, or about to be lodged.

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