New Melbourne planning zones have recently been introduced. Zoning defines what types of buildings can be built in a particular area. It prevents a noisy factory being built next to your home.
Zoning is made up of three broad areas: residential, commercial and industrial. As buildings stay with us for decades, a new system relevant to our current and future needs was necessary. Its purpose is to ensure we can co-exist harmoniously whilst responding to the challenges Melbourne faces moving forwards.
Most relevant to readers of this blog is the new residential zoning system. These include:
– The residential growth zone – An area that encourages the greatest increase in density allowable.
– The general residential zone – Preserves the existing neighbourhood area while allowing “modest housing growth”.
– The neighbourhood residential zone – restricts density increase to preserve the existing neighbourhood.
All this was good news until I read that the state government was to leave it to the local councils to define the varying zones that make up their jurisdiction. My heart sank as I knew what would happen next. Sadly this was confirmed last week when Glen Eira council was the first to announce their new zones. As I had feared they tightened their residential zoning, making increasing densities even harder than before within their boundaries. Glen Eira designated 80% of its area as the tightest controlled zone mentioned above, restricting any increase in density to most of its streets.
Why is this bad news for Melbourne, and why am I so upset about this? Councillors don’t want their voters disgruntled and objecting to proposed developments. Five people who object to two new townhouses in their street are five people who may not vote for them in the next election. Allowing local politicians to determine our future growth is fuelling our urban sprawl.
The council are not the only ones to blame however. Unfortunately there are many people who don’t like the thought of extra neighbours in the form of one house being replaced with two townhouses on the property next door to them. If their objections are based on this premise alone, they prevent us from addressing the biggest crisis our city faces: population growth and the lack of housing to cope with it.
The third party to blame are the developers and designers who put up so much of the woeful new housing we see everywhere. Design is of no importance to them, just their profit margin. For those who have objected to those two new townhouses next door because the design is terrible. I can’t blame you for that.
We are chasing our tales. Bad design is often the reason for objections. More objections mean more tightening by the council to prevent further objections. We need to put greater value on good design. Employ a good building designer or architect. Design a well thought out project that is sympathetic to the neighbours and sympathetic to the fact that someone can’t afford a big house, but one of those two well designed smaller houses is affordable to them. Good design does not need to cost more. Bad design costs us greatly.
If you think housing is too expensive now, and traffic is driving you insane rather allowing you to get where you need to go, just wait and see what it will be like in ten years if we tread the same path. There are too many of us living here for the single house on the quarter acre block to accommodate us all. If you can afford that’s great, but allow others to have their smaller piece of this town. We all deserve some of it.
Our houses are the biggest on average of any country in the world! Great design is about quality not quantity. Our kids are the first generation in history for which many will never be able to afford their own home. We need to start sharing our space better. We need to start investing in great design that uses energy and space efficiently.
We can all do our part. Fingers crossed the other councils do too.