Planning discussion paper gets it right on affordable housing

The Victorian Government’s ‘Melbourne, let’s talk about the future’ planning discussion paper was released last year. There are many great things addressed in the paper very well, but one theme that I found particularly relevant and interesting was the issue of affordable housing.

Housing prices have increased at a phenomenal rate over the past few decades, especially in inner and middle suburbs. It is now virtually impossible to buy a house in Boroondara for under about $900,000 (the median house price for Boroondara is upwards of $1 million) and there is little housing diversity. What we are seeing happen before our eyes is young people being priced out of the housing market and are either forced to remain living with their parents for long into their early adulthood or settling for being burdened with huge debts just to buy or rent a place to live.

The discussion paper talks about these issues very well. Under its ‘strong communities’ principle, it states:

Neighbourhoods should be able to cater for people’s housing needs over their lifetime, bearing in mind that adults move six or seven times on average

It then goes on to talk about young people and first home buyers in particular:

Singles and students usually require one and two bedroom accommodation in close proximity to transport, education and entertainment choices…Housing diversity enables people to downsize or upside their housing requirements within their local area…They can stay in their local area – while maintaining social and support networks – but in accommodation that meets their needs and budgets.

Further discussion on changes that need to be made to the current housing stock and changes in attitudes that need to occur:

Rather than viewing medium and higher density residential development as a ‘problem’, it needs to be seen as an opportunity to bring people more closer to existing services and jobs. There are different ways of increasing housing density without undermining the valued characteristics of local areas. Investment in high quality design, attractive public spaces and other public benefits are central to delivering acceptable urban change.

(emphasis mine)

Hopefully something concrete eventuates on affordable housing from this discussion paper. It is a desperate situation at the moment that will only get worse if nothing is done soon.

6 thoughts on “Planning discussion paper gets it right on affordable housing

  1. “Rather than viewing medium and higher density residential development as a ‘problem’, it needs to be seen as an opportunity to bring people more closer to existing services and jobs.”

    It should read:

    “Rather than viewing medium and higher density residential development as a ‘problem’, it needs to be seen as an opportunity to bring MORE people closer to existing services and jobs.

    Do you have any research to support your conclusion that “higher density residential development and housing diversity would directly improve the affordability of housing for young adults in the local community?”

    If you believe the property market is a bubble waiting to burst, I suggest you look elsewhere to invest your money.

    S.H

    1. Higher density residential development would undoubtedly increase housing affordability. There is plenty of research to support this argument – one of the most recent and comprehensive is the recently released is the Housing Supply and Affordability Issues 2012-13 report, which may be found here: http://www.nhsc.org.au/content/publications/housing_supply_affordability_2013/downloads/housing_supply_affordability_report_2012-13.pdf

      Might I add that it’s not just about increasing the total supply of dwellings, but increasing the diversity of housing. For instance, a single student studying at university doesn’t need a three-bedroom house out in suburbia- an apartment close to public transport, entertainment and other facilities is much more suitable, affordable and attractive. Managing our growth well, rather than trying to stop any growth or change at all, is what we need to be concentrating on.

  2. Thanks for your reply.

    The concentration of high density dwellings in the City of Boorondara has significantly increased from 4,061 high density dwellings in 2006 to 6,070 dwellings in 2011. Boroondara has had an average annual growth rate of 9.9% over this five-year period. In 2011 high density dwellings accounted for 9.3% of all dwelling types, the largest percentage of high density dwellings recorded since 1991.

    Residents aged between 20-24 years old account for 8.1% of the total population and residents aged between 15-19 years old account for 7.3% of the total population, the largest percentage of residents in each age group recorded since 2001.

    In the City of Boroondara there has been a significant increase in student housing accommodation apartments located close to tertiary education institutions. I have personal experience living in a student accommodation apartment in the City of Boroondara.

    The studio apartment was uncomfortably small. The landlord had the right to evict the student residents from the premises without providing a reason. My three neighbors and I were all evicted(and verbally threatened with legal action) four months into a 12 month lease agreement only to find the apartment listed on a real estate website for an additional $15 than the amount specified in our contracts.

    The idea of increasing the concentration of high density dwellings reminds me of a recent proposal by Mayor Bloomberg of New York to build “micro” apartments for New York singles.

    I am yet to be presented with research that indicates that the increase in concentration of higher density dwellings increases the standard of living of occupants. Increasing the diversity and/or concentration of high density dwellings does not appear to be the answer to housing affordability.

    This crisis cannot be alleviated by the actions of one local Council. The Victorian Government and Local Governments must take responsibility for the current housing affordability crisis.

    Link here:
    http://theconversation.edu.au/the-end-of-affordable-housing-in-melbourne-8273

    So how are you going to change my attitude?

    S.H

    1. I absolutely agree that things need to change, and you’re right that it will take a lot more than just one council or one level of government to get any meaningful action taken on this issue. I see this stage of the process as more about raising awareness – this is an issue rarely referenced or discussed in media articles related to housing or planning.

      Might I add that I am not advocating that the construction of high-rise apartment blocks in as many places as possible is the ‘silver bullet’ solution, and anybody who thinks so has the wrong end of the stick. A combination of medium-density units/townhouse developments as well as high-density apartments are required in order to help solve this problem.

      With regards to increased density improving residents’ standard of living, there are many benefits and a large body of research to support this, such as health. However, as I stated previously, this is not to say that we should be building apartments everywhere and that this will solve all of our problems. It is about including the necessary changes to improve urban sustainability, sustainable transport usage and housing affordability/choice. Increasing density is just part of the solution, but we need to start soon.

  3. Personally I cannot hold an informed opinion without first being presented with the details of the proposal.

    The real question is: Who will be the winners and losers of urban change?

  4. Absolutely right!.
    Students today are more evolved , educated and believe in doing their research before taking any decision , including that of accommodation. Today they look for lot of criteria for course and University selection, city and country for education and even for accommodation they do their research before arriving to their universities. Even there are specialised websites to help students find and book accommodations depending on their own criteria of location and affordability etc.

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