Calls to fast-track low-rise and townhouse property developments in Melbourne’s established suburbs

Infrastructure Victoria wants high-grade townhouse development proposals approved faster to create more affordable housing and to reduce urban sprawl.

The state’s independent infrastructure adviser is also calling for the abolition of stamp duty and an end to the first home-buyers grant.

Their latest research has found many normal households can’t afford to buy homes in the inner and middle suburbs of Melbourne.

In a survey of around 6,000 respondents, Infrastructure Victoria found a lot of people looking for new homes as they start a family want to move into three-bedroom houses in established areas near their family and friends.

Chief executive officer at IV Jonathan Spear said most of these types of buyers would rather live in a townhouse or apartment closer to the city than a standalone property further out if they were the same price.

“Our research shows that new home buyers are locked out of inner and middle Melbourne,” he told ABC.

“Households on moderate incomes, many of which are families and first-home buyers, are being locked out of Melbourne’s middle suburbs, pushing them further away from jobs, schools and public transport, and locking them in to more travel time in the car.”

The need is pretty clear for more housing developments that cater for this demand and for the projected population growth that will see Melbourne soon surpass Sydney as Australia’s most populated city.

“For each decade to come we’re going to have around a million more people coming to Melbourne, and that’s welcome, but we need to plan for it,” Dr Spear said.

The State Government has a long-term plan to make 70 per cent of new home builds to be in established areas, but Dr Spear said they have so far fallen short of this target, with less than 50 per cent currently fitting this criteria.

To rectify this situation and to get the Government closer to their 70 per cent target, IV has made a range of recommendations that include lifting the standard of low-rise apartments, fast-tracking approvals processes for developments that meet those standards, reform of the state’s infrastructure contributions scheme, abolishing stamp duty and the first home-buyers’ grant, and targets for the number and type of new home in each local community area.

“What we have identified we think is a very fair balance if making sure there are clear standards of the quality of design and the appearance of townhouses and apartments,” Dr Spear told the ABC.

“In exchange for that, then an ease in delivering those townhouses and low-rise apartments that we know one in five families would like to have the opportunity to purchase.”

The recommendations do not advise building more high-rise apartments or changing heritage planning laws, which would allay the fears of some community members worried about too much infill changing their local environments for the worse.

RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research professor Jago Dodson also spoke to the ABC and said he thinks there’s a role for governments to help increase the number of high-quality housing developments in established areas, but fast-tracking should only happen if there’s proper consultation with local residents.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to infill development simply will not work effectively in terms of the way it brings community and local government into the development process,” he said.


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