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Victorian Housing Statement: headline opportunities and issues for developers

Property & Development
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The Victorian Government released its long-awaited Housing Statement yesterday. The document covers a wide suite of objectives, all of which are aimed at facilitating the development of 800,000 homes across Victoria in the next decade.

With many of the details yet to be decided and/or announced, implementation of the plan will require amendment to the Victoria Planning Provisions and many local Planning Schemes – the first, approved this afternoon, being Amendment VC242. Several initiatives will also require legislative changes to take effect.

Key take-aways include:

  1. New particular provisions in the Victoria Planning Provisions to facilitate developments that provide a significant level of housing, which may be affordable housing, or make a significant contribution to Victoria’s economy and provide substantial public benefit, including new jobs.
    • Applications made under the new clause 53.22 or clause 53.23 will be subject to notice (including to a municipal council and third parties) but no third party rights will exist to review the decision to VCAT.
    • The Minister for Planning will be the Responsible Authority for developments assessed under these new provisions.
    • The use of these new pathways is voluntary. Applicants can choose to have the provisions apply where an application includes written advice from Invest Victoria and a report confirming the estimated cost development is provided. The minimum cost of works being 50 million for Metropolitan Melbourne and 15 Million for Regional Victoria. A project can also be determined under the pathway, if the Responsible Authority confirms in writing that the project is of significance.
    • Applicants will still have the option of having their planning permit application assessed in the usual manner (i.e. by a municipal council), should they choose to do so.
    • These new particular provisions provide scope to vary requirements such as garden area, building height and, in some cases, support uses which were previously prohibited (e.g. office and retail premises) for projects which meet the minimum costs of works and deliver 10% affordable housing.
    • This is a substantial change and one that will unlock the development potential of land across the state which is otherwise restricted by building height and/or garden area requirements.  
  2. Streamlining and reducing the backlog of planning decisions.
    • This will occur through increased Ministerial call-ins and a specialised projects team that will facilitate discussions between project proponents, local councils and referral agencies to resolve issues delaying decision-making, with the aim of avoiding VCAT disputes and getting houses built. 
    • Whilst streamlining decision-making and improving the time frames for decisions will no doubt be welcomed by all sectors of the community, from consumers to property professionals, the clearing of the backlog is a challenge and will only be achieved through adequate resourcing at all levels of government and within individual referral authorities.
  3. Increased housing within activity centres.
    • The Activity Centres of Broadmeadows, Camberwell Junction, Chadstone, Epping, Frankston, Moorabbin, Niddrie (Keilor Road), North Essendon, Preston (High Street) and Ringwood will see the introduction of new planning controls aimed at delivering an additional 60,000 homes. 
    • Many of these centres have existing planning controls regulating the height and form of developments. The particulars of the new controls are yet to be outlined, and it will be important that they take account of a wide range of factors, including the capacity of the Centre and existing development patterns, as well as market demands and any existing physical constraints, for example heritage and flooding.
  4. Expansion of the future homes project.
    • The Future Homes designs are available to purchase and adapt to your site through a streamlined planning process. The government will expand the designs available to include 4 and 5 storey schemes.
    • Absent amendments occurring to majority of the inner metro residential areas, we expect the take up of these new designs will be focused in Activity Centres, Commercial and Mixed Use Zones.
  5. Implementation of the red tape commissioner reforms. 
    • The red tape commissioner report was released in 2019. 
    • Many of the recommendations are yet to be implemented and will require legislative intervention.  As the government foreshadows, support for these changes will require input from both houses of parliament, including the upper house where the government does not presently have a majority. 
  6. Conversion of commercial office buildings to residential. 
    • The government has foreshadowed that it will work with the Property Council of Australia and the City of Melbourne to consider opportunities to support the conversion of underutilised properties.
  7. Affordability housing partnerships:
    • These partnerships will occur in Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria and deliver 2,500 new homes. Under the partnerships, community housing providers will manage and maintain sites for 40 years before handing the land and all dwellings back to Homes Victoria.  All land will be retained by the government.

If you would like to discuss any of these issues and how they might affect you, please don’t hesitate to make contact.

ABL senior associate Lucy Eastoe is quoted in coverage of the Victorian Government's Housing Statement in today's AFR. Read more here.

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