Government should re-assess Neighbourhood Planning Zones as changing market demographics demand reform

Government should re-assess Neighbourhood Planning Zones as changing market demographics demand reform
Urban EditorialNovember 2, 2015

It’s been just over two years since the State Government’s controversial Neighbourhood Residential Zones were gazetted, which restricted new apartment development to certain ‘zones’ within each suburb, thus limiting development on side streets and other designated areas to single-lot dwellings.

The planning amendment was one long fought for by the residents of some of Melbourne’s most affluent suburbs like those surrounding Marshall White’s four offices through Boroondara, Stonnington and Bayside, as they strove to protect their leafy-green streetscapes from new apartment buildings.

Many would say it’s been a win for the residents, however something incredibly interesting and unprecedented is now occurring as a result.

For the first time in recent memory, the same demographic which once vehemently opposed new developments - baby boomers and empty nesters - are looking to sell the family home and purchase a large, bespoke apartment in the same neighbourhood they know and love.

It’s an extraordinary shift in sentiment from say two or three years ago when this particular demographic wouldn’t even consider living in an apartment.

On the contrary, now they have wholeheartedly embraced it, but there’s just one problem – the type of apartments they are seeking; boutique projects located on quiet side streets away from the hustle-and-bustle of the main road traffic, don’t actually exist anymore due to the flow on effects of the new planning regulations which have severely restricted new apartment growth in these suburbs.

Developers are now adjusting to the new regulations by purchasing what properties they can on main roads, and redeveloping them into large-scale new apartment buildings. Some landowners are even now cashing in by combining their sites and selling multiple adjoining parcels for a huge profit.

But, with development opportunities now so restricted, developers simply can’t keep up with the demand for more boutique developments of say 10 luxury apartments in quiet neighbourhood streets.

As baby boomers and empty nesters continue to flood the market, there is simply not enough new product coming to market in Melbourne’s inner east and northern suburbs to keep up with demand.

With the rapidly changing market, the time is now to reassess the neighbourhood planning guidelines in order to free up the pipeline of new apartment developments in order to adequately satiate demand.

A market as dynamic as Melbourne’s demands flexible planning schemes that provide clarity, are nimbly changed and evolved to keep up with constantly changing market needs.

This new wave of apartment-embracing downsizers will just continue to grow as more and more people seek to trade in their family home for something more manageable, yet still with the luxury finishes and amenity to which they have become accustomed.

Our planning regulations are behind the times and we urgently need reform in order to better serve the market in the future.

Leonard Teplin is Director of Melbourne-based Marshall White Projects.

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