Submission on ACT Government Housing Choices Discussion Paper

The Curtin Residents Association has made a submission on the issues and planning aspects of the discussion paper, rather than try to answer the prompt questions. You are welcome to reuse any part of this for your own submission.

Curtin Residents Association Comments on Housing Choices Discussion Paper 2017–18

  1. Open Urban Spaces

It is essential that Urban Open Space between existing suburbs should not be repurposed into housing developments.

While it may be tempting to take Urban Open Space from within suburbs for new housing, this should be a last resort, requiring community agreement and reserved for the types of housing missing in our communities: public housing, co-housing, housing cooperatives, affordable housing, and modest terrace, villa and dual-occupancy housing for people on average incomes. Any such development must have higher social merit than simply densification.


  1. Community facilities

It is essential that community facilities such as schools, sporting facilities and vacant spaces in target suburbs (even if they are currently under-utilised) should not be replaced by housing. As densification proceeds in nearby town centres and within suburbs (by redevelopment of existing housing stock) there is already a need for increased community facilities in these suburbs. This increase is necessary to preserve relative levels of amenity for both the existing and the future population. The existing community facility sites should be redeveloped for further community uses, by refurbishing existing buildings or creating new complexes of community facilities and specialised housing, if this can be done with acceptable plot ratios and heights to suit the character of the neighbourhood.


  1. Strong data is needed

The current real-life experiment provided by the Mr Fluffy project (that is, relaxing rules in RZ1 to encourage multiple unit construction) provides an opportunity to collect fresh evidence of the effectiveness of these changed constraints, and the choices made by both industry developers and new owners. Only by building a statistically strong collection of data from developments on Mr Fluffy blocks and in RZ2 zones, doing careful analysis, and holding public discussion of the results, can the government build trust in the motivation and likely effectiveness of extending any changes to RZ1 or making changes in RZ2 zone restrictions or areas. Measurement of the effects will make the public debate more informed and meaningful.


  1. An area approach to planning

In general the Curtin Residents Association believes that salt-and-pepper sprinkling of multi-unit developments among single residences is desirable, similar to what may be provided by the Mr Fluffy blocks. To achieve best planning outcomes in the long term, it is necessary that a ‘whole of street’, precinct, section or sub-section approach to planning permissions and outcomes must be adopted. This will be more effective than the current paradigm of hoping for good development performance to emerge from having most of the planning rules apply only at the level of individual properties. For example, the express goals for the number of redevelopments and the number of dwellings in particular areas should be stated in advance, to strengthen the notion that planning is goal-directed; and it could be achieved by incentives that change as the density approaches the goal.

A long-term policy of actively encouraging early proposals for suitable developments, with attendant publicity that later development will be restricted, will help to achieve development planning goals faster and more efficiently. This will also reduce the existing residents’ concerns that allowing any development at all will inevitably escalate from this ‘thin end of the wedge’ to over-development and destruction of amenity.


  1. Mandating housing diversity

The requirement to provide some smaller housing types should be made a concomitant condition – a social payback – for any large-scale development to be approved. If current development activity is providing the wrong mix of housing types as an outcome, then the government should not rely only on changing the development rules or costs to distort market conditions in its attempt to drive developers to build what they see as less profitable developments. Instead, for example, a developer proposing a development of hundreds of apartments should be required to also propose and complete a specified number of dwellings as townhouses or multi-unit housing, whether in the same precinct or in other areas of Canberra (in similar ways that the provision of social or affordable housing is social policy that should be enforced on developers in all zones). A healthy market in unit development licences may result, as developers negotiate with each other to provide suitable mixtures of dwelling types under each project umbrella. The enforced cross-subsidy will have the result of some sharing of costs to create the outcomes desired by government policy at reasonable cost.

Curtin Residents Association

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