Victoria is on the cusp of significant planning reform. Perhaps.
Recent articles in The Age and rumblings from the Victorian Labor Government suggest that the new Planning Minister, Sonia Kilkenny, is aiming to address the state’s impending housing crisis by undertaking significant planning reform and refocussing housing growth to infrastructure and service-rich middle ring suburbs.
Middle ring suburbs are the areas that lie between the inner city and the outer suburbs. They are often characterised by good infrastructure, access to services, and affordable housing. However, they are also facing a shortage of housing, which is driving up prices and making it difficult for young families and low-income earners to find a place to live within these established areas.
Ms. Kilkenny has recognised that the government had failed to meet its own target of directing 70% of housing growth to established areas, with only 56% of new dwellings since 2014 being located within established areas.
One way to address this issue is to encourage more medium to high-density development in middle ring suburbs. This type of housing can provide affordable options for a wider range of residents, while also helping to create more vibrant and diverse communities.
Encouraging more medium-density development in middle ring suburbs will address broader social and environmental issues. For example, it can reduce car dependence by providing more convenient access to public transport, promote sustainable living by reducing the environmental impact of older single-family homes, and promote social cohesion by creating more diverse and inclusive communities.
To achieve this goal, the Victorian government should focus on streamlining planning regulations, providing incentives for developers to build medium-density housing, and promoting public awareness of the benefits of this type of development. This could include initiatives such as fast-tracked planning permits, reduced development fees, and public education campaigns.
A suggestion to directing housing growth in the appropriate locations is to remove local Councils from the strategic planning and decision making process in those infrastructure rich areas, particularly around major public transport nodes and within some activity centres. Often local politics gets in the way of sound planning decisions and expanding the ever increasing time it takes to obtain a Planning Permit by forcing applications to go to VCAT.
Other suggestions include, but not limited to, removing the mandatory garden area in General Residential zoned land and removing third party appeal rights from recognised substantial change areas.
Of course, there are potential challenges associated with this approach, such as concerns about the loss of green space and the impact on existing residents. These concerns should be addressed through careful planning, community engagement, and appropriate design standards.
Undoubtedly, now is the right time for significant Planning reform in Victoria. The Victorian government must prioritise the promotion of medium-density development in middle ring suburbs as a key component of its planning reform. This will help to address the housing crisis, promote sustainable development, and create more diverse and vibrant communities across the state.
As always, Ratio will be at the forefront of advocating for improvements to our planning system.