Delivering more housing in in the right locations isn’t a new planning policy idea, but the raft of initiatives announced by the Victorian Government today are looking to take a ‘sleeves-up’ approach to getting more housing on the ground (and apartments in the air).
The new Victoria’s Housing Statement asserts: “The decade ahead 2024-2034, which is seeking to encourage additional 250,000 homes over the current in the next 10 years, for a total of 800,000, a broad range of policy levers to increase housing supply to meet demand and increase affordability for owner/occupiers and renters. These include measures to protect renter’s rights, social housing upgrades, and the first State-based short-term rental levy.”
For the measures related to planning, it is more of an evolutionary step rather than a revolution as the detail on some of the measures is still to follow. However, there is a strong focus on incentives to move projects through planning quickly.
As part of the solutions proposed, the Planning Minister will exercise greater call-in measures, supported by a departmental team of 90 planners, to clear an identified backlog of 1,400 housing applications that have been sitting in Council planning departments for more than 6 months.
The existing Development Facilitation Program will be expanded to make the Planning Minister the decision maker for medium and high-density residential developments, offering a four-month application timeframe, that meet the criteria of:
- Construction cost of at least $50 million in Melbourne and $15 million in regional Victoria.
- Include minimum 10 percent affordable housing (including build-to-rent projects).
It is estimated that the measure will bring forward the approval of 13,200 dwellings.
The staff resourcing for the facilitation program is welcomed as we have found that fast-track processes can be delayed where there isn’t the in-house capacity to drive the assessment forward.
Ten activity centres ‒ Broadmeadows, Camberwell Junction, Chadstone, Epping, Frankston, Moorabbin, Niddrie (Keilor Road), North Essendon, Preston (High Street) and Ringwood – have been identified for reformed planning controls to deliver an additional 60,000 dwellings. These centres are well serviced by existing and proposed infrastructure and have untapped capacity to support more intensive development and population.
At a smaller scale, granny flats or dwelling garden units will no longer require a planning permit if they are less than 60 square metres. The need for a permit is also being removed for works to a single dwelling including extensions to sheds and car ports.
Other planning reforms that are foreshadowed in the Housing Statement but are still coming together:
- New Deemed to Comply residential standards that allow quicker permits for different housing types that meet set criteria. The measures will limit Council assessments to those areas which don’t comply, allowing for quicker decision making.
- Legislative reforms to address issues identified by the Red Tape Commissioner, including giving VCAT the power to dismiss matters unlikely to succeed and imposing time limits on submissions. Planning Panels Victoria will also be able to undertake hearings on the papers and join parties.
- Surplus government land will be identified to be rezoned for development across 45 sites, delivering about 9000 dwellings.
- Changes to the apartment design standards to add to the existing controls, with details yet to be confirmed.
- Plan Melbourne to be replaced by a new plan for Victoria, including a focus on 70% of dwellings to be built in established areas and 30% of new housing within growth areas, noting that the existing Plan Melbourne already includes this aspirational target.
- There will be no change to the Urban Growth Boundary.
As a statement of intent to address the housing supply crisis, today’s announcement is welcomed but we will be keen to see the detail of the planning reforms still to come before we can form a view on whether the measures will deliver the housing required, noting that there are also other significant market-related factors that have a bearing on the ability to deliver more housing.