14 September 2023

Claims the interim Territory Plan will send housing density backwards refuted by government

| Claire Fenwicke
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CHC housing

It’s been suggested site coverage changes to RZ3 to RZ5 areas of Canberra will lead to ‘downzoning’ and less housing. Photo: CHC.

Greater Canberra has accused the ACT Government of failing to adopt measures in the interim Territory Plan that would meaningfully reduce Canberra’s carbon emissions or contain urban sprawl, as well as containing errors that would “substantially reduce housing capacity” in higher-density zones.

Convenor Howard Maclean argued the dual-occupancy option created for RZ1 would have minimal uptake due to “poor policy design”, which could be found in the fine print.

For example, in Inner Canberra, the full lease variation charge would be around $150,000 to $250,000 for a 120 sqm dwelling under schedule 2 of the LVC Determination.

“In the case where both homes are being developed simultaneously (such as a duplex knockdown rebuild), both homes would require a DA and be vulnerable to legal challenge by a neighbour.”

He argued it would be a better financial decision for owners to redevelop the block as a larger single residence rather than take a risk on potential gains from a second, smaller dwelling.

He also pointed to apparent “drafting errors” that would make “massive” changes to maximum permissible density on RZ3, RZ4 and RZ5 blocks.

The documents stated that the maximum site coverage ratios would be 50 per cent for all zones, which Mr Maclean said would lead to a “massive downzoning” of Canberra’s housing capacity.

“We have been informed that this is an error; however, as it stands, this is the current legal effect of the Territory Plan as notified,” he said.

“This joins a large number of other errors in the planning documents – incorrect terminology, typos, draft watermarks for non-draft documents. There may be a large number of other legally consequential errors in the planning documents.

“These errors are flatly unacceptable.”

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Region put these issues to the ACT Government. A spokesperson said Greater Canberra’s concerns related primarily to provisions in the draft consultation versions that had since been updated.

They added that the RZ1 zoning changes would provide an opportunity for “gentle urbanism” which would, along with other initiatives in the district strategies, deliver the required level of housing for the Territory’s predicted population growth.

As for maximum site coverage requirements for RZ3 to RZ5, the spokesperson said the current requirement for multi-unit housing was 45 per cent.

The draft consultation material suggested coverage requirements of 65 per cent for RZ3 and RZ4, and 80 per cent for RZ5, which appear to be the numbers Greater Canberra relied upon when arguing the proposed 50 per cent coverage was a reduction.

“On further consideration of the possible site coverage requirements, it was noted that the site coverage requirements proposed in the draft new territory plan would be difficult to achieve given other provisions related to living infrastructure, including planting areas on the block and open space,” the ACT Government spokesperson said.

“The new interim Territory Plan increases the permitted site coverage requirement to 50 per cent for RZ3 to RZ5, consistent with the ACT Government policy position on living infrastructure.”

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The Territory’s new planning system almost hit a snag when the associated legislation almost missed being introduced to the Legislative Assembly.

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman wanted to seek leave to move the documents on Tuesday (12 September), a day after the new Territory Plan was announced.

This wasn’t granted. The minister was then forced to ask the Assembly to suspend standing orders to introduce the legislation.

Canberra Liberals MLA Nicole Lawder questioned why the government had had time to consult the media about the new plan but didn’t have time to adhere to “common courtesy” and add it to the relevant section of the daily program.

“This was put upon us just yesterday, that they were going to argue this motion today … this is supposedly a very important motion for the ACT – if it was so important, why wasn’t it put on the program in the normal fashion?” she said.

“All they care about is doing whatever they want, whenever they want, without going through the proper processes.”

Mr Gentleman disagreed, stating “most of the ACT knew this was coming” and that the bill had already been debated “quite thoroughly”.

“This was a very important topic to get on the agenda … it’s important that we do debate this motion,” he said.

Standing orders were suspended, allowing the motion to be presented to the Assembly.

The legislation will now go to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services for an inquiry and interested parties are encouraged to lodge a submission.

Expressions of interest to be heard during public hearings can also be sent to LACommitteePTCS@parliament.act.gov.au before Friday, 27 October.

They must be less than two pages long, and don’t guarantee a place at the public hearing.

“The recommendations of the Committee will then inform a Government response and any potential further changes to the Territory Plan before the final plan is made,” a government spokesperson said.

Public hearings for the inquiry will be held on 6 and 7 December.

The Committee will be required to report back to the Assembly by 11 March 2024.

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Linda Seaniger2:54 pm 14 Sep 23

I’m happy with 50% site coverage. It will enable new development to fit within existing parameters of existing adjacent buildings which had a different gross floor area to site ratio and subsequently able to plant more vegetation around their properties.
A lot of new developments in the newer suburbs are working on the 80% of site area as living space. So consequently, there’s little room to park and the streets become the parking lot. There is little to no green space or vegetation to soften the often high and ugly structures. Just have a look around and observe how much redeveloped blocks are on sold for, and they certainly don’t make for fordable living. Often the new develop structures are sold for the price as the single residential structure. This is all about keeping the developers happy and the government rent roll continuing.

devils_advocate2:21 pm 14 Sep 23

“For example, in Inner Canberra, the full lease variation charge would be around $150,000 to $250,000 for a 120 sqm dwelling under schedule 2 of the LVC Determination.”

So where was this claim “refuted”?

Greater Canberra convenor put a statement on Twitter, which is where I think a bunch of these quotes came from.

I dont think the LVC aspect has been refuted per se, but the Govt seems to be vaguely saying gentle urbanism and other fairy dust in the District Strategy will deliver the required level of housing for the Territory’s predicted population growth.

Have you got some figures on the land value uplift crested by subdivision in those areas?

Bit meaningless to talk about costs without a comparison of the additional land value that is solely created due to a change in government regulations.

devils_advocate2:17 pm 15 Sep 23

@chewy14 that’s my point. I don’t think anyone is going to be jumping at the chance to pay $100K+ just for the prospect of unit titling a 120m2 secondary dwelling.

So the application of the LVC will be a key driver in the cost/benefit analysis

Of course the answer will become clear when we see how many of these unit titles are created in RZ1 zones (which the ACT government will no doubt keep and report transparent data on)

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