Industry insights | 10 October 2023

Navigating Victoria’s Future Homes Project

The land development and housing landscape of Victoria is evolving, with complex issues surrounding housing supply being tackled by a suite of State government initiatives. The government has recognised that there needs to be a range of measures applied to a variety of opportunities in the densification of existing urban areas, new development on the urban fringe, and development in regional areas in order to try and provide sufficient supply for existing and projected populations. Each of these areas has a role to play in satisfying the supply equation, and at Millar Merrigan, we work across them all.  

While there is not any silver bullet solution to the housing supply issue, this statement from the government looks to tackle the politically challenging densification of existing suburbs with a number of initiatives that will provide for urban infill to do more of the heavy lifting in contributing to new housing initiatives. 

The thing is that it has become clear that the problem of housing affordability and supply outweighs those resisting change – for decades the narrative has been dominated by those saying no to change (the NIMBYs) to the community increasingly saying yes– there has even been the establishment of a grassroots organisation: YIMBY (yes in my back yard) who are pushing for housing abundance to solve the crisis. The narrative and community attitudes are changing – it feels like this attitude change has been gradually happening but perhaps (and hopefully) now at pace! No matter how you are involved in the land development industry, it is important to understand the updates outlined in Victoria’s Housing Statement, as these developments are poised to reshape the way we approach land development and housing supply. 

What will change? 

It is important to read Victoria’s Housing Statement, to understand yourself what the Government says they are going to do. However, the changes that have been announced have resulted in numerous changes to planning legislation and there are a few more to come.  

The changes can be categorised into 2 streams: 

1. Streamlining assessment and providing clarity: 

a) “Deemed to Comply” Measures for Multi-Dwelling Housing: One of the critical changes is the introduction of measures that are “deemed to comply” for new multi-dwelling housing projects. This move aims to eliminate uncertainty by clearly defining what is deemed acceptable in such developments. It streamlines the assessment process and provides developers with a clearer path forward.

b) New Pathways for Economic Development: The Statement opens up new pathways for significant economic development projects. A current Millar Merrigan projects for proposed worker accommodation for Mount Hotham would fit into this category. Developments eligible under this pathway are likely to benefit from streamlined approval processes, reducing red tape and expediting project timelines.

c) Affordable Housing Initiatives: As part of the government’s effort to address housing affordability issues, they are creating pathways for projects categorised as “Significant Residential Development with Affordable Housing”. These initiatives aim to make housing more accessible to a broader range of Victorians by fostering the construction of affordable housing units. Developers will have opportunities to participate in projects that align with the government’s vision for affordable housing partnerships.

d) Easing Dwelling Permit Requirements: In a move to simplify processes, the need for a planning permit for dwellings on lots over 300 sqm will be eliminated. This streamlines the development process for smaller lots, freeing up time for decision makers on more complex planning assessments.

e) Streamlined Approval for Smaller Dwellings: For lots under 300 sqm, the government plans to streamline the approval process for dwellings (using VicSmart). This change acknowledges the demand for more housing options and facilitates construction on smaller lots. 

2. New initiatives to boost supply:

a) Future Homes: The “Future Homes” initiative is a significant step toward increasing housing supply. In areas within 800m of transport and commercial hubs, developers can build three-story apartments as of right. The key requirement is that these developments meet a high standard of design based on exemplar designs provided by the State Government.
This initiative aims to address the growing housing demand by promoting the construction of well-designed, higher-density housing options in strategic locations.

b) Dwelling Garden Units: While specific details are yet to be released, the introduction of dwelling garden units is a promising move. These units, typically less than 60 sqm, will not require a permit. New South Wales has had secondary dwellings for a while, and introducing this for Melbourne is a move that should provide a diversity of housing for small households in existing suburbs. Currently, there aren’t enough opportunities for single people, despite plenty of demand. The initiative aims to diversify housing options, catering to single individuals and small households within existing suburban areas.

c) Government Land Redevelopment and Public Housing Renewal: The government’s commitment to redeveloping existing government-owned land and renewing public housing is a pivotal step toward improving housing accessibility and quality. These initiatives could potentially unlock new opportunities for developers and organizations willing to collaborate with the government on these projects. 

These legislative changes are part of a broader strategy to reshape Victoria’s housing sector, with a strong emphasis on affordability, supply, and innovative design. The narrative surrounding housing is evolving, and these updates reflect a growing commitment to addressing the challenges posed by densification and housing shortages, paving the way for a more accessible and sustainable future.  

Building a More Accessible Future 

It’s essential to stay informed and adapt to the evolving landscape. Victoria’s Housing Statement sets the stage for a future where housing is more accessible, diverse, and affordable.  

The present economic climate has led to a significant shake-up of the building industry and it remains to be seen whether the collapse of multiple building and construction companies will limit the delivery of housing targets. There is growing expectations that prefabricated housing could rise to become a solution to demand – prefabricated dwellings can be a more environmentally sustainable and socially beneficial way to build and is used for much of the housing in Europe but for some reason has not taken off in Australia – perhaps the time is coming? 

At Millar Merrigan, we are dedicated to Inspiring Better Living. We are ready to navigate these shifts, ensuring that our clients and partners can harness the full potential of these updates while we continue to deliver high-quality land development solutions.  

If you want to know how these changes will impact yourself, your project, or your business, get in touch with our team today and we can provide our advice and support.  

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