The Planning Minister Richard Wynne on Better Apartments

The Planning Minister Richard Wynne on Better Apartments
Richard WynneJune 2, 2015

Walking around some of Melbourne’s best-designed apartments recently, I was struck by how much design could make a small space feel like a home.

I was on the Robin Boyd Foundation’s exemplary apartment tour, showing off the best in Melbourne apartments.

In Victoria, there are some exceptional examples of how clever spaces, light and ventilation can add to liveability, and how apartments built some decades ago still hold their own today.

Victoria’s property industry is brimming with experts in clever design, the very people I’m appealing to contribute to the draft apartment guidelines our government is working on.

In May, I launched a discussion paper, Better Apartments, at the Planning Institute of Australia’s national conference.

The discussion paper was chosen as the best way to kick-start consultation. Rather than beginning with draft guidelines, I want the people who deliver apartments and the people who live in them to have their say from the start.

Developers are lured to Melbourne for its liveability and investment potential.

Record-low interest rates and a thriving property market have encouraged property investors and owner-occupiers to buy. These are some of the factors pushing up apartment approvals in the past few years.

While that is great news for the state’s economy and for our property industry, we need to make sure planning policy keeps pace with the surge in apartment living.

The rise in apartments has thrown up a red flag from local government, architectural and industry bodies around the standards of some apartments in Victoria.

While I’ve seen some great apartments, I have also seen some dogboxes - poorly designed with little access to natural light, airflow and storage.

The Better Apartments discussion paper raises those concerns and weighs up housing needs, market demands and building standards with the aim of improving liveability and affordability.

The government’s goal is to deliver sustainable housing outcomes, deliver on affordability, respond to the desire to live near jobs and services while also supporting investment.

The discussion paper’s focus is on internal amenity, as well as outlook and privacy.

While apartment sizes are a hot talking point, we must keep in mind that good design is the key. There are some fantastic small apartments offering good amenity, natural light and are affordable, just as there are plenty of poorly-designed large apartments.

We are working towards guidelines that give certainty but still allow for innovation and new ideas.

As well as Better Apartments, work has begun on a refreshed Plan Melbourne strategy and we have begun detailed work to plan the country’s biggest infill opportunity, Fishermans Bend.

We aren’t starting from scratch. Rather, major issues left out of Plan Melbourne and Fishermans Bend plans to date, such as energy efficiency, housing affordability and climate change, will be included.

Future planning work will also factor in the major infrastrcuture projects the Andrews Labor Government has committed to, such as the Melbourne Metro Rail project.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can deliver innovative, robust, world leading policy in apartment design. We will be holding stakeholder forums and already, online submissons and survey responses are rolling in.

We will strive to deliver apartments to balance affordability and liveability, in buildings which enhance the city skyline and the streetscape.

Melbourne leads the world in liveability, let’s see that reflected in our aspirations for apartment living.

The Hon Richard Wynne is the member for Richmond and the Minister for Planning. Follow the Planning Minister on Twitter.

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