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October 2018

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

2017 PIA Symposium - Walking Tour

Mark Sheppard conducted a walking tour of Mebourne's Docklands to analyse and discuss architecture, urban design and public spaces as part of PIA's 2017 Planning Symposium.

planning, urban design, melbourne, docklands, pia, walkability, open space, interfaces

PIA Symposim - Docklands Walking Tour

DLA's Mark Sheppard conducted a walking tour of Melbourne's Docklands to analyse and discuss density and building types as part of PIA's 2018 Planning Symposium.  

planning, urban design, melbourne, density, high density, architecture

Residential Aged Care Facilities – The VPP’s steps forward in 2018

Work is currently underway to reform the classification and assessment of Residential Aged Care Facilities (“RACFS”) within the Victorian Planning Provisions. In July 2016, the Managing Residential Development Advisory Committee – Residential Zones Review identified the need for residential zones to provide greater support and flexibility with notable recommendations, in addition to high level objectives, the Committee concluded 

• The maximum building height controls in the current suite of residential zones do not support State planning policy support for facilitating RACF development.
 • RACFs should be excluded from mandatory maximum building height requirements and some ResCode requirements

Synthesis of the above-mentioned has resulted in the exhibited Clause 52.X draft Residential Aged Care Facility. The proposed provisions have recently been exhibited with key refinements including; confining ResCode tests to internal/offsite amenity impacts, and built form siting, in addition to the ability to grant a permit to vary (under Clause  2.XX-4) the requirements of Clause 52.XX-3 (or the abovementioned). Small steps but steps nevertheless. 

I applaud the Ministers intent and the Departments move to reform but as with all bystanders I have the luxury to ask, “will this go far enough”. For comparison I turn to our NSW counterparts. Specifically, the differentiation between the differing types of seniors housing provision and subsequent methods of assessment under Chapter 2 and 3 of the State Environment Planning Policy (Housing for Seniors or people with a Disability) 2004. In terms of regulatory frameworks and specificity in detailing the differences in classifying seniors living models within the planning scheme, our NSW counterparts are “miles ahead”. 

Unlike NSW, within Victoria RACF’s, Retirement Living, Independent Living Units, high, low or transitional care facilities are not clearly distinguished within the VPP’s. Whilst Clause 74 provides broad land use definitions – certainty cannot be derived from clear definition and differentiation of senior living models. It follows that I believe the existing VPP’s (and reforms) do not go far enough to reflect the transition in the seniors living or lifestyle industry that are on foot or reflect the certainty required by service providers to compete within the land acquisition market place.  

Ageing is no longer about seeing out the twilight years in medium to high care facilities. My parents are baby boomers, healthier than any other generation of a similar age before them. They are cashed up (literally or figuratively with assets) and are approaching their later years of life with zest for activity, community and family. They have done their part in paying for their kid’s education, their taxes, and have been the first generation to have dual income households. We should acknowledge a) that they (and us) are ageing with differing expectations, and b) our existing ageing in place is little more than objective within a policy statement rather than a real, deliverable target.

How is this relevant to planning? Well, it starts from the top down and is two-fold. 

RACF’s is but one form of aged care. Within the current definitions of the VPPS, RACF’s does not account for the different types of aged care, whether it be independent living, low care with in home care, or lifestyle models (which require minimal care but access to care services such as basic GP, mental health, pharmaceuticals etc etc.) 

Aside from a differentiating and defining each of the models within a planning definition to land use, incentives need to be provided to service providers to create certainty – currently the assessment of built form for RACFs falls back to ResCode, with no exemptions, and importantly, no incentives for service provision. That is, the same market forces (“magic hand”) which are pushing first home buyers to the fringe, are also intervening in the service provision for much needed facilities, i.e. redevelopment sites potentially suitable for seniors living models are losing out to the apartment development/standard residential redevelopment market. We as an industry (and indeed a society) need to decide if we are going to introduce an artificial market force via public policy intervention to redirect or incentivise a much-needed adjustment. 
Incentive must be provided to seniors living/lifestyle providers in terms of built form, and land use exemptions. On this basis, certainty is given to service providers to compete within the “standard” residential (or indeed commercial market depending on location and land use mix) market place for land acquisition. The market will adjust. 

For example, a height exemption of X storey’s above the 13.5 max under a GRZ would arm providers (and indeed developers acting for service providers) to invest in well located, well serviced inner urban or middle ring sites where yield and model can be accurately and confidently forecasted, and as such, risks in acquisition can be balanced. 

We should aim to provide our seniors living – not on the fringe away from the communities that the residents have helped build, but in and amongst their networks, communities and families. If indeed the new model for seniors living is one of inclusion by good urban design and well considered urban planning then we as an industry have the responsibility to provide a regulatory framework which provides development incentive, and importantly, confidence for service providers to purchase desirable urban sites - let them “stretch their legs” and put to market vertical seniors living models, co-locate seniors living with childcare and medical facilities, or higher education or retail land use mixes – capture the imagination and preference of a post 2000’s ageing.  

I see this as a relatively simple fix. Being 65 in 2018 is different to being 65 in 1965. Expectations, disposable income and wealth, family commitments and preference are generations apart, figuratively and literally. I say bravo to the first step of reform however recommend we look further North for a case study of “better” practice. 


  1. There is strong planning policy support at a State level to facilitate RACF development and to enable ‘ageing in place’.  A working group, with representatives from industry, peak bodies, councils and state government, has been established to provide advice in developing new RACF planning controls to ensure their timely and cost-effective delivery.
  2. Try obtaining an approval for an intergenerational home in Metropolitan Melbourne and a proposal with more than one kitchen or separate entry point is treated by planning departments as a hideout for a dictator.

planning, melbourne, housing, aged care

September 2018

Servicing Cabinets: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Servicing cabinets, cupboards or enclosures are a necessary requirement for buildings – where functionality is the priority in design and siting. Cabinets need direct street accessibility for emergency services & utility providers which can result in detrimental impact on streetscapes. Planners and designers are set with the task of finding the balance between functionality and form – all the while contributing to the public realm and character of the area. Clause 56.09 provides broad policy guidance, however, it is the building regulations that hold the most useful guidance for planners and designers to consider through the design process.


The policy context for servicing cabinets stems from AS2419.1-2005 ‘Fire hydrant installations’ that contains siting and design requirements that should be incorporated in the design stage. Locational criteria for a hydrant booster includes the following:

(a) They are readily accessible to firefighters.

(b) They are operable by fire brigade pumping appliances located within 8m.

(c) If within, or affixed to, the external wall of the building, the booster shall be—

(i) within sight of the main entrance to the building; and

(ii) separated from the building by a construction with a fire resistance rating of not less than FRL 90/90/90 for a distance of not less than 2 m each side of and 3 m above the upper hose connections in the booster assembly


Other design criteria include:

Cabinets, enclosures or recesses must be:

(a) of sufficient size to house all equipment;

(b) be of a design that facilitates access to and handling of equipment;

(c) have any doors fitted so that when open they do not encroach on exits or inhibit access to firefighting equipment;

(d) be used to contain firefighting pipework and equipment only; and

(e) if external, be of weatherproof design and fitted with hinges of stainless steel or copper alloy.

The MFB also has a ‘Feed Hydrant and Booster Assemblies’ guideline that sets out additional criteria including surrounding surface treatment, 2m vegetation buffers and signage requirements.

What the Australian Standard concludes is that whilst the location is to be designed for accessibility and protection of our fireys, there is flexibility for sitting, size and design and an opportunity to explore the creative use of the surrounding context and features of a building façade for cabinet integration.

Useful techniques to be considered in the planning and design process include:

Dark recessive colour options
Cabinet orientation
Fusion with landscaping
Integrating into street walls or front fences
Human scale height (as applicable)
Working with the existing context
Incorporation of art

Below are examples of how these techniques can be applied to cabinets in the planning and design process to improve the interface with the street and design integrity.



In this circumstance, the servicing cabinets account for approximately half of the front façade. The light colour draws the eye. The above signage panel that uses the same beige colour creates the illusion the cupboards are higher than human scale and therefore overwhelming the street.



This cupboard would benefit from a recessive colour palette that is distinct from the sign. The frontage would also benefit from a reduction in the expanse of the cupboard by breaking up the mass by swapping its central location with entry points, as appropriate.



This example illustrates an exposed servicing cabinet that has not been integrated into the building design. The position of this cabinet creates a barrier between the outdoor dining area of a ground floor café and the public realm, resulting in an unclear edge between the public and private realm.



Ideally, consideration early in the design process would ensure for visual integration whilst remaining functional and accessible. In this example, the cabinet would benefit from a recessive colour and adjustment in height by removing the legs to maintain consistency in height with the fence behind it. This would provide a better public and private realm relationship and improved street surveillance.



This example demonstrates servicing cabinets in a constrained space. Whilst the cabinets have been designed to integrate with the building, the cabinets draw the eye due to white trimmings and is dominant in relation to the abutting Victorian dwelling.



Subtle design changes, including removing white colour edges and introducing vertical vents to reflect neighbouring fences will reduce the impact from the street. Additional strategies such as repositioning the cabinet away from the sensitive interface would enhance the façade.


From the above, it can be concluded that whilst cabinet functionality is most important, the form can complement functionality if considered from the start of the design process. By using a set of design techniques and creative thinking, cabinets can contribute positively to streetscapes and improve pedestrian amenity.


By Jane Witham

planning, melbourne, urban design

October 2017

Victoria Harbour Melbourne: Urban Design Walking Tour

Our Principal Urban Designer, Mark Sheppard, recently took PIA “Doing it Differently” symposium delegates on a walking tour of Victoria Harbour in Melbourne’s Docklands.  

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planning, urban design, victoria harbour, walking tour, pia, mark sheppard, melbourne

New Urban Design Provisions for Fishermans Bend

A draft new planning framework has been released for Fishermans Bend

This follows the introduction of interim controls in 2015 and 2016, and foreshadows new permanent controls expected to be introduced by mid 2018. The Framework outlines overarching strategies for the whole of Fishermans Bend, but its detailed proposals focus on the four Capital City Zoned precincts (excluding the Employment Precinct north of the West Gate Freeway): Montague, Lorimer, Sandridge and Wirraway.

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planning, urban design, fishermans bend, melbourne

June 2017

DLA Leading Social Housing Transformation

DLA is proud to be involved in a number of major social housing renewal projects in Melbourne and Sydney.

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planning, urban design, melbourne, sydney, social housing, master plan

May 2017

VCAT News – DLA in the Media!

DEXUS Property Group Ltd v Minister for Planning [2017] VCAT 619

DLA Associate Urban Designer Brodie Blades was recently engaged to appear as an urban design expert witness at VCAT on behalf of the Minister for Planning with respect to a planning permit application at 32-44 Flinders Street, Melbourne. 

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planning, vcat, urban design, expert witness, melbourne

BADS In Practice:
What do the new Victorian BADS planning controls mean for the design of apartment buildings?

The Victorian Better Apartment Design Standards (BADS) have now been officially introduced to planning schemes. New apartment developments (except those lodged before 13 April 2017) are now required to meet the requirements of the new Clause 58, or new apartment provisions in Clause 55.07 if they are in a residential zone and lower than five storeys. Notably, the Guidelines for Higher Density Residential Development remain in place, although new Apartment Design Guidelines are slated for May.

The new standards are largely focused on establishing minimum standards of internal amenity. But what are their other consequences for the design of apartment buildings? First, let’s look at the things that won’t change much.

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planning, urban design, bads, better apartment design guide, victoria, housing

Victorian Residential Zones: Reformed or Re-Form

DLA Associate Jonathan Halaliku takes a close look at the new Victorian Residential Zones and asks the key question: are the new Vic res zones sufficiently reformed, or should we be further reforming?

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planning, urban design, vic residential zones, housing, garden city

February 2017

Plantastic is Back for 2018

Are you inspired by planning and design? Are you interested in the latest trends in town planning and urban design both here and abroad? 

Here at DLA we are passionate about all things town planning, urban design and architecture and love discussing the latest trends in our monthly blog 'Plantastic and Designeriffic'. Stay up to date with the latest urban design tips, urban curiosities and interesting reads from the team by subscribing to our monthly newsletter at the link below! It's completely free, simple to unsubscribe and - best of all - always inspirational.

So what are you waiting for? Get 'designeriffic' today!

Sign up to our monthly newsletter here.

planning, design, plantastic, designerific, melbourne, sydney

January 2017

New Associates at DLA

David Lock Associates is pleased to announce the promotion of two of our senior staff members to Associate. We would also like to extend a welcome to our most recent employee.

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associates, new hires, planning, melbourne, 2017

December 2016

New Better Apartment Design Standards

Better Apartment Design Standards Released

The Victorian State Government has recently released its final version of the Better Apartment Design Standards (BADS) following exhibition of a hotly-discussed draft set of guidelines exhibitions. Released on Saturday, the new design standards appear to have responded to significant industry feedback (including submissions from DLA) and will influence new apartment development across Melbourne from March 2017 onwards.

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planning, melbourne, apartment, better apartment guidelines, statutory planning

November 2016

DLA's UDF Commended in PIA 2016 Awards

The implementation of David Lock Associates' Lara Town Centre Urban Design Framework was recently commended by the Planning Institute of Australia in the category ‘From Plan to Place’.

The City of Greater Geelong's Implementation Plan was applauded for its success in creating a “vibrant, active and pleasant destination”. The ambitious project, adopted by council in 2006, has resulted in the revitalisation of Lara Town Centre. The collaborative efforts of multiple stakeholders were central to driving the project’s success and delivering a better sense of community and place for Lara.

David Lock Associates congratulates the City of Greater Geelong in delivering the vision as set out in the UDF.

The awards ceremony, which can be found here, is an opportunity to recognise the accomplishments of planning across Victoria.

planning, pia, pia award, urban design

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