On p58 of the current draft plan there are areas shaded that are proposed for potential for "higher density housing". This has been of concern to residents as the plan did not provide any definition of what 'higher density housing' meant. Does it mean 2, 3 or 4 storeys? The answer is that it potentially means all of this. There doesn't appear to be an easy explanation that would provide reassurance for residents. Below is the official response from Council that defines 'higher density housing' and well as, 'average density', 'low density', 'medium density' and 'high density'. Note that 'higher density' and 'high density' are not necessarily the same things. But in certain circumstances they could be.
Banyule Council's Response
This is our considered response. In the statutory town planning system, terms like low, average, medium, high and higher density can be difficult to follow. So, rather than using the formal statutory town planning explanations and definitions for these terms, we have attempted to describe what they mean and how they fit together in a simpler way which is hopefully more helpful. We will also describe how these terms then get applied in the statutory town planning system for development proposals on land.
What does higher density housing mean?
This term describes any development outcome that results in more homes on a property. For example, the building of a new home on an average sized suburban property, behind an existing house along a street, is an example of a higher density housing outcome. Another example is where a large, rural property that was once occupied by a farmhouse and paddocks is developed for new residential lots of new homes. Both circumstances, whilst at opposite ends of the spectrum for the quantity of additional homes, is giving a higher density housing outcome for a property.
What does average housing density mean?
This term is about the average type of home in an area. In some places, like parts of Carlton, Fitzroy or Williamstown where there are lots of terraces, the average housing density will be influenced by a dominant housing type. In such places the density may be about 1 home for each 300 square metres of land. In a place like the docklands, where there are only apartments, the average housing density may be more like 15 homes for each 300 square metres of land. This would be a high average. In other parts of Melbourne, away from the inner suburbs where subdivision of farmland happened before the 1970s, the average housing density would have been more like 1 home for each 600 to 700 square metres of land. Nowadays this is thought to be a relatively low average.
For the middle of activity centres, which are centred on traditional shopping streets, there may be few homes for people in comparison to the commercial or retail floor space. In these places there may be some shop-top housing which is often no longer used as a home, as was originally intended. Instead the upstairs space is commonly used for storage or as an office space. This circumstance means that there is often a very low housing density for traditional shopping streets like Ivanhoe, also this average density can be lower than the density of housing in nearby residential streets.
For many years communities and their governments have been grappling with the idea of reducing the average housing density. This is for many reasons. Some of them relate to housing affordability and land economics, sustainability and use of resources, infrastructure costs and maintenance as well as concerns for the sprawling nature of modern cities and the inequalities that arise from this. For Melbourne, the State’s Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) has led a strategic town planning policy direction to promote a more compact city where the average housing density for Melbourne increases. In other words more houses on less land. This is being done, so that less agricultural and environmentally significant is consumed for new housing at the fringes of Melbourne and more homes are built close to existing services, facilities and public transport within Melbourne. This policy direction is not new or unique, indeed it is an international response to managing the changes within modern cities and has been the Melbourne metropolitan policy approach for about 20 years now.
In summary the term average density housing, is a reflection of the total number of homes in an area divided by the total residential land area where the homes exist.
What is low density housing?
This term describes a type of housing that if dominant in an area, would result in a low average housing density. Low density housing can look like a large detached home on a very large residential block. These types of homes are often associated with rural residential areas where the housing density is very low. Banyule is fortunate to have some very low density housing, giving an opportunity for some families to have a rural residential lifestyle in the Yarra River valley at Lower Plenty in a place this is fairly accessible to the city. In this area there are some very sensitive environments and landscapes. In the planning system very low density housing areas tend to have their own zoning called ‘Low Density Residential’ as is the case for those parts of Lower Plenty in the Yarra River valley.
Low density housing is also a term used to describe the larger blocks of residential land, where separated large dwellings were constructed on properties of about 600 to 700 square metres. Nowadays an average housing density of about 1 home for each 600 to 700 square metres is considered low in comparison to modern residential subdivision design standards.
In Victoria, current subdivision design standards are described through the provisions of Clause 56 in Planning Schemes. Whilst design requirements for single dwellings are given at Clause 54 in Planning Schemes.
What is medium density housing?
This term describes a type of housing where more than one new home is constructed and each new home has its own, separate footprint on the land. These types of homes are the townhouse and unit developments that are occurring all over Melbourne. They commonly share a driveway. In some streets, medium density housing will be 2 and 3 storey townhouses, whilst in other places they may only be 1 or 2 storeys.
A medium density housing development provides for a higher density housing outcome and includes circumstances where two new homes replace an existing home on a property.
In Victoria, current residential design requirements for medium density housing are described at Clause 55 (ResCode) in Planning Scheme. These requirements apply to multi-dwelling (more than 1 dwelling) housing outcomes that are less than 4 storeys. Medium and high density housing can be less than 4 storeys.
What is high density housing?
This term describes a type of housing where more than one new home is constructed and each home does not have its own footprint on the land, rather the homes occupy airspace. These types of homes are the apartments that are part of mixed-use or high density residential developments. They normally share a driveway as well as stair-cases. Sometimes there’ll also be a lift or a basement car parking area as well. A shop-top apartment is a high density home, an apartment in a low-rise block of flats is a high density home as well. In Banyule, there are various examples of low-rise, high density living. This includes Stradbroke Avenue.
In Victoria, current residential design requirements for high density housing are described at Clause 55 (ResCode) for those developments that are less than 4 storeys. This includes the low-rise apartment developments. For taller residential developments of 4 or more storeys, the State Government has Guidelines for Higher Density Residential Development. These guidelines are included in the State Planning Policy Framework section of all Planning Schemes in Victoria. In the absence of a specifically tailored approach for the design of high density developments of more than 3 storeys, the only design guidelines available are the State’s guidelines. These guidelines can be accessed from:http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/urbandesign/guidelines/guidelines-for-higher-density-residential-development-four-or-more-storeys.
What does all this mean for Ivanhoe Structure Planning?
The benefit of doing a structure plan and then making changes to a planning scheme for a final structure plan means that a tailored set of guidelines can be created, so as to be geared towards the unique attributes of an activity centre. Locally tailored guidelines that are part of a structure plan, which are put into a planning scheme, need to be supported by the Minister for Planning.
In Victoria, consecutive State Governments have established and maintained a ‘performance based’ planning system. This means that policy objectives and guideline statements are used to give direction for preferred development outcomes. Whilst the current State Government is looking to codify some types of proposals, including development of land less than 300 square metres, structure planning and built-form guidelines continue to be the preferred avenue to guide future development within and around Melbourne’s shopping streets.
Separately from all this is the building permit approvals system, which is also significant for the final outcome of any development. Building permits and planning permits are very different things. More information about the town planning and building approvals systems is available from: http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning
Some other useful resources from the State Government are: