5 January 2023

Lawson Build-to-Rent proposal aims for 500 dwellings on amenity-rich site

| Ian Bushnell
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Lawson Build to rent illustration

An early design sketch of the Lawson Build-to-Rent proposal. Photo: Fender Katsalidis.

A proposed Build-to-Rent development for Lawson aims to deliver 500 dwellings to the ACT’s tight rental market, together with a rich range of amenities and green infrastructure.

Early details of the proposal have been released by Canberra Town Planning for consultation ahead of a development application.

The project website says the site at the corner of Tenterfield Avenue and Cambaroora Street has been identified as suitable for a Build-to-Rent project in response to the lack of good-quality housing options in the area.

The Suburban Land Agency released the 9372 square metre site (Section 51 Block 1) to the market last June with a maximum dwelling limit of 150 dwellings. It sold for $16.2 million to SAP Canberra Pty Ltd.

The project website says that a significant amount of recreational amenity will be provided for residents with a focus on wellness and open space.

Architects Fender Katsalidis and landscape specialists Oculus are designing the project.

READ ALSO How to make your rental move go as smoothly as possible

FKA’s Jacqueline Bartholomeusz told Region the development would be split between two six- to seven-storey buildings whose curved arms would embrace an internal courtyard.

Ms Bartholomeusz said there would be a range of apartments up to three bedrooms but the focus would be on the smaller sizes from studio to two bedrooms because of the University of Canberra catchment and to introduce a lower price point for single people and tenants searching for affordable accommodation.

“Everything will be rented. It all will be managed by one owner, and the client is talking with some Build-to-Rent operators,” she said.

The site plan for the Lawson project. Photo: Canberra Town Planning.

Ernst & Young had advised the architects on the amount of amenity that should be included in the project to meet market expectations.

Ms Bartholomeusz said the result would be a high number of facilities and services.

They included a swimming pool, gym, multimedia room, lounge-dining facilities as well as landscaped roof terraces with barbecues.

Also in the mix was a half-size basketball court and other recreational facilities.

Services would include a medical centre and childcare that would be open to the local area as well.

Green infrastructure would include rooftop solar to power the common areas, electric vehicle charging, a car share fleet and a bicycle hub to promote a connection to the surrounding cycle trail along Lake Ginninderra and into the Belconnen Town Centre.

A sketch showing the massing of the proposed buildings. Photo: Fender Katsalidis.

Ms Bartholomeusz said the project was in the early design phase with sketches showing the buildings’ massing.

“We’re still working on facade development now,” she said.

The architects would be meeting with the National Capital Design Review Panel in March, when more detailed artist’s impressions should be available.

READ ALSO Public transport lobby on board with Deakin hotel and build-to-rent proposal

“We’ve been really sort of influenced by the local area,” Ms Bartholomeusz said. “So we’ll be using a lot of natural tones for the materials.

“There’ll be three different facades, the one facing Ginninderra Drive, which sweeps around that large curve of the site, then there’ll be a different articulation on the entry to show this is the arrival … the main street facade.

“And then there’s a new street from Ginninderra Drive, Tenterfield Avenue, and that will have a different facade as well.”

Ms Bartholomeusz said a community engagement session was held in December and a presentation to the Belconnen Community Council was being planned for later this month.

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Our ACT government complains about individual landlords who own one or two units being too demanding of their tenants. Imagine the power of a landlord who controls all 500 units, as will be the case in this scenario.

It will be almost impossible for an individual tenant to have any power at all. The prices and conditions in all of these units will not be easily negotiated or focussed on the needs of the individual tenant, as all will be controlled by the single operator who has all of the power. This will affect the housing market in the area and across Canberra.

This landlord will also have a significant influence on the ACT government, because what they do will have an impact on the public’s view of housing in the ACT and the capacity of the government to provide what’s needed.

However, there is a benefit for the ACT government who will be able to pay even less attention to the wishes of smaller landlords, as Build to Rent operators come to control the bulk of the rental market in Canberra.

One advantage for tenants though is that the landlord will not be forcing them out after 12 months because they want to sell the property or have family move in etc. This will give tenants a chance to stay in one place for a while, avoiding the significant costs of frequent moves.

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