Explore new housing models and keep Canberra green, says Hub report

Ian Bushnell 31 July 2018

The Collaboration Hub met five times over the past three months to find a fresh housing framework.

The ACT Government needed to at least maintain or increase the proportion of land released for lower-income people and explore alternative models of home ownership, according to recommendations contained in the Housing Choices Collaborative Hub report handed to the Minister for Housing Mick Gentleman on Saturday (28 July).

The report also said that while infill development was preferred over greenfield, it should not be at the expense of green space, and that future developments in higher density areas must ensure adequate garden and tree plantings to prevent heat island effects and minimise environmental impacts.

The Hub, comprised of 31 randomly selected individuals representing a broad cross-section of the Canberra community, convened on five separate occasions over the past three months, supported by expert and stakeholder advice, with the goal of providing the ACT Government with community-driven recommendations for housing policy.

With the ACT’s housing affordability crisis deepening, the community is waiting on the Government’s long foreshadowed Housing Strategy to be released.

The report says there was wide recognition across the group that the ‘missing middle’ (medium-density dwellings) would be key to Canberra maintaining its reputation as the “bush capital” and “garden city” as it grew into a medium sized city.

The group developed recommendations around nine themes – zoning, planning and approvals, affordability, character, public housing, quality of design and construction, and lifestyle and diversity.

On the key issue of housing affordability, many of the group agreed that the Government should increase the proportion of new land released for lower income earners.

The group also recommended that the Government explore and implement alternative models for affordable home ownership including co-housing, rent-to-buy and financing options, as well as reinvigorating the land-rent scheme to increase take-up rate for eligible buyers by reviewing prices and incentives.

The report highlights the group’s concern about the ACT maintaining its green and open spaces in the face of densification with a recommendation that all applications for multi-unit developments include landscape plans and streetscape elevations to describe the character of green space to encourage a diversity of street fronts.

It wants future developments in the higher density RZ3 to RZ5 zones to have mandatory levels of soft landscaping to provide room for shade trees and gardens so as to reduce the heat island effect and stormwater run-off, and to integrate planning with Government sustainability standards.

The group said it didn’t want lots of tall buildings closely packed next to each other and that with greater density, more green space was needed on each block.

For both infill and new developments, the Government should require and/or provide incentives for developers to deliver an increase in the mix of dwelling sizes and diversity of dwelling types such as build-to-rent, shop-to-living, share housing, loft-style, courtyard, terraces, mews and manor.

The group believed Precinct Plans could prevent conflict between developers and residents and provide a framework for planning in and around suburbs and centres.

To ensure better building quality, particularly in apartment developments, it recommends an independent inspection and certification process and a design review panel for all higher density developments.

It wants the Government to adopt sustainable design standards and provide incentives such as rate reductions for home owners that use solar/renewable power and sustainable materials.

It also wants best-practice examples promoted in the planned demonstration projects.

On public housing, the group recommends an increase in-line with population growth and a greater diversity of dwelling types.

Mr Gentleman said there was no one right answer to the question of how the ACT met its future housing needs.

“This has been a genuine opportunity for the citizens of Canberra to influence future housing choices and planning and development in our city. The Hub has presented me with a report of their recommendations. Government will now consider the Collaboration Hub’s recommendations and present a formal response in the coming months,” he said.

To view the report, go to: www.yoursay.act.gov.au/housing-choices

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