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Incentivising Social Housing, what are Victoria’s Options?

By: Sam Palma

Within recent years, the delivery and availability of social housing within Victoria has been an increasingly popular topic amongst State Government and industry stakeholders, as the trend in Melbourne’s property market demands further investigation into options to provide affordable and social housing to the marketplace.  The delivery of such housing products continues to be an on-going joust between both private and public parties in order to obtain ‘who should be responsible for supplying these products to the market?’.  

The public sector has recently committed to the ‘Public Housing Renewal Program’ which commits to the supply of 1,800 new dwellings. The Department of Health and Human Services has revealed these dwellings will be made available for social, private and affordable housing.  

Within the private sector, a concept that has gained traction and success overseas is the ‘build-to-rent’ system, an arrangement where apartment blocks are constructed and made available exclusively to the rental market. These apartments have the ability to be transferred to (or purchased by) housing authorities and leased below market value. This particular concept is currently being explored by Melbourne and Sydney developers, however at this stage requires further clarity towards government subsidies and tax system implications in order for this model to be deliverable to the market.

From a planning perspective, progression was achieved on 1 June 2018, as the Planning and Environment Act 1987 was amended to include the following definitions/changes:

  • Adding a new objective to the Act “to facilitate the provision of affordable housing in Victoria”.
  • Providing a definition of affordable housing – “affordable housing is housing, including social housing, that is appropriate for the housing needs of very low, low, and moderate-income households”.
  • Affirming the use of section 173 for voluntary affordable housing agreements “… a Responsible Authority may enter into an agreement with an owner of land for the development or provision of land in relation to affordable housing”.

Earlier this month, the State Government released the planning framework report for Fishermans Bend, which revealed height controls, dwelling density ratios, setback controls, amenity requirements etc. Of interest, was the implementation of ‘Social Housing uplift control’, allowing a density bonus to developers in exchange for the provision and supply of social housing. In the Fisherman’s Bend context, developers can apply for an additional eight private dwellings for every one social housing unit that is provied to a registered housing associated. Density bonuses have been used as a negotiating tool by local governments in recent years due to an absence of any defining policy outlining requirements to provide social housing.

Looking at this issue from a statutory planning perspective, how can provisions of a Planning Scheme facilitate a greater supply and delivery of social housing for both private and public sectors?

A method worth exploring is the removal of third-party appeal rights and public notice for social and affordable housing projects, essentially fast tracking the planning application through Council. In my opinion, I believe the waiver of third-party appeal rights and public notice for such housing products is warranted, not only from the perspective of reducing timeframes for assessment, but limiting the consideration to that of the Planning Scheme and reducing potential holding costs associated with land. The exemption for public notice would not be a foreign element to the Planning Scheme, as a number of Overlays (such as development plan overlay) and Particular Provisions exhibit similar waivers to advertising requirements. This would incentivise the supply for both the private and public sector and could sit within the Particular Provisions of Victorian Planning Schemes.

  • Do you think the removal of third-party appeal rights and public notice for social and affordable housing projects is warranted?
  • Will this result in an increase to the supply of social housing with Victoria?

planning, social housing, urban pl, urban planning, melbourne, planning scheme, affordability

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