6 December 2023

Scrap dual occupancy limits, MBA will tell Territory Plan hearing

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Michael Hopkins

MBA ACT CEO Michael Hopkins says the government needs to be much bolder if housing targets are to be met. Photo: Region.

The building industry has doubled down on its opposition to limits on dual occupancy development and will urge the ACT Government to be bolder in its reforms if it really wants to encourage greater housing choice in the ACT.

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins will tell a public hearing into the new Territory Plan today (7 December) that now was not the time for half-measures when it comes to planning reform to increase housing supply.

Mr Hopkins will call for the “illogical” 120sqm restriction on dual occupancy dwellings to be scrapped.

READ ALSO Public school disability inclusion strategy pilot to be rolled out at Tuggeranong schools

He told Region ahead of the hearing that the limit was illogical and unnecessary given the other provisions in the Territory Plan, such as the design guidelines and technical specifications.

He said these provisions already dealt with matters such as green space, setbacks, solar access and overshadowing, which resident groups were rightly concerned about.

“It’s just an artificial control for a reason that only the government can explain that makes no sense,” he said.

“It will only further limit the delivery of housing choices in the ACT.”

Mr Hopkins will also tell the hearing that the government should go further and reduce the minimum block size for new dual occupancy dwellings from 800 sqm to 600 sqm, allow dual occupancy dwellings on all corner sites, and allow three dwellings on RZ1 sites greater than 1200 sqm.

He said dual occupancies on corner sites were common in other cities and if two homes could be built on an 800 sqm block then why not three on a 1200 sqm, or even four on a 1600 sqm block?

Master Builders agreed with residents groups and community councils that were concerned about conserving what was unique about Canberra’s suburbs but that could be achieved under the Plan’s design controls and technical specifications, as well as building more diverse housing.

“It’s important to get those provisions right to preserve what the community does value about Canberra, but Canberrans also value accessing affordable and appropriate housing, and the government hasn’t been bold enough on delivering on that part of what Canberrans want in the Territory Plan,” Mr Hopkins said.

Dual occupancy, no adjoining walls.

Canberra needs to build more homes in established areas and dual occupancy is a way to do that. Photo: Region.

The MBA will also call for the lease variation charge on both dual occupancy developments to be halved to encourage more development.

He said industry feedback had identified the LVC as a barrier to building more dual occupancies.

“Even a temporary reduction would allow the government to test if that is an effective lever to encouraging greater housing choice, and if it is it should become a permanent part of the tax regime,” Mr Hopkins said.

“If the controls and costs are so high that people don’t proceed with development in the first place then the government won’t receive any additional revenue.”

Mr Hopkins will also tell the hearing that the government should beef up the ACT Planning and Land Authority and National Capital Design Review Panel and reform the pre-development application process.

He said better outcomes relied on developers being able to talk through proposals, especially innovative ones, first with planning officials and experts before committing to a development application.

“It’s in everyone’s best interests because if they can get advice early on and embrace the feedback before they lodge their development applications, we’ll get better development applications,” Mr Hopkins said.

READ ALSO Does prison work? Tina McPhee has lived experience, and says there have to be other ways

He noted securing an appointment with the National Capital Design Review Panel took over six months.

“This makes accessing expert design advice unworkable when proponents are in the early stages of designing new city-shaping projects,” he said.

Mr Hopkins said that an MBA analysis shows that between 5800 and 6380 dwellings must be built annually for the next five years to meet our share of the National Housing Accord targets.

“The ultimate success of the new planning regime will hinge on whether our housing targets are achieved, high-quality building designs are approved, and the development approval system results in more efficient planning approvals,” he said.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

How about restricting building footprint to block sizes? If they are already restricted those restrictions are too loose.

Some of the newer suburbs you could almost walk between the roof tops. Definitely no room for trees.

devils_advocate2:19 pm 11 Dec 23

The rules are different in new suburbs which typically have “small blocks”

“Large blocks” (which from memory is defined as above 500m) have development controls such as setbacks, envelopes and GFA/plot ratios

I am very much in favour of the idea of building additional dwellings on large blocks and have no problem with the 125sm size limit. You can get a very comfortable house in that space if it is properly designed. However, what doesn’t seem to get mentioned are the other aspects of densification. There will be trees lost from existing gardens, a greater need for water and sewerage (is the infrastructure up to it?) and much, much more car traffic. I understand that not all blocks will go down this path but it is worth thinking about.

devils_advocate12:04 pm 08 Dec 23

They would have to pay an infrastructure charge to ICON reflecting the increased load on the water/sewer network.

Re: electricity probably better to have more users on the grid as households transition to solar power, to defray the costs of maintaining the infrastructure over a larger user base

As for gas that’s being phased out.

Helen Bellato8:28 pm 07 Dec 23

However if you happen to be the ACT Government redeveloping a Mr Fluffy then these crazy rules do not apply! The rules should be fair and equal for all. If they really wanted people to develop they should offer an amnesty on the betterment charge for a period of time, allow an actual proper size family home to be built which complies with the block’s setbacks / solar envelope / pos ratio etc. and allow these new dwellings to be sold OTP. With building costs skyrocketing, very few people will take the risk of entering into lengthy and costly building contracts just for a 120 sqm flat in their backyard.

These “crazy rules” do not apply to the ACT government redeveloping Mr Fluffy properties Helen Ballato? Special provisions apply to surrendered blocks that are in Territory Plan RZ1. Under these special provisions developments may occur on blocks over 700m2 and 800m2 whereby developers may or may not be able to unit title their properties.

Why should developers be offered an amnesty on a betterment charge so they can build bigger monstrosities on small subdivided blocks under an OTP? That is not what this plan aims to do. It aims to give those wanting to enter the housing market greater opportunities. Not everyone wants a large house on a small block and it is people like you seeking to undermine the scheme!

HiddenDragon7:14 pm 07 Dec 23

“He said these provisions already dealt with matters such as green space, setbacks, solar access and overshadowing, which resident groups were rightly concerned about.”

If it weren’t for the fact every one of the many sets of planning and development rules which this town has had since self-government has been gamed and compromised in the eternal search for the almighty buck, people who are worried about what these new rules will mean for their streets and suburbs could be forgiven for seeing the 120sqm limit as a definitive rule which offers at least some protection – particularly in light of comments such as this –

“He said better outcomes relied on developers being able to talk through proposals, especially innovative ones, first with planning officials and experts…”

In the language of Australian property developers “innovation” too often means “here is a new try-on to get around existing rules and squeeze more profit out of every square metre of land – and too bad if that destroys the privacy and amenity of neighbours”.

The answer is in all the vacant land on the main intertown public transport routes. That is where demonstration affordable housing should go, eg Deakin to Woden along Adelaide Ave would be great once LR is completed.

Yeah , lets build lots of future slums a stuff Adelaide ave in making it slower to get to the city

The real issue that advocates of housing policy change continually ignore is:
The vast majority of blocks eligible for RZ1 secondary dwellings are towards the fringes of the city and furthest from the infrastructure and community facilities best suited to higher density living. No smart urban planner would choose this as the key strategy for a city to increase housing density and support population growth.

Yeah great idea ! Lets please ruin the suburbs with dual occupancy everywhere, do the people in the suburbs get a say in this , ??? Thought so , ACT is going down big time

devils_advocate4:33 pm 07 Dec 23

Uh… you do understand that people have been able to do dual occupancies on their RZ1 blocks for many decades now, right?

This change just affects unit titling, and in a very restrictive way.

But dual occupancies are not new….

Only in certain areas , you can see this is slowly opening the door to allow dual occupancies on any RZ1

devils_advocate12:02 pm 08 Dec 23

“Only in certain areas” –

which are the areas where it’s not permitted to do a dual occupancy on an RZ1 site that meets all other requirements?

Why not? You don’t want to do it on your allotment, then don’t. But why stop others? It should be allowed across the board. The only restriction should be building ratio. Right now, you can knock down an existing home on an 800 sqm block and build a 400 sqm McMahon, no questions asked. That same building could be a duplex or even a triplex and not affect its neighbours.

I’m all for ruining the suburbs. Time for these nonsensical restrictions on housing choice to end. The government hasn’t gone far enough with this half measure policy.

RZ1 blocks were always single dwelling

I’m not sure you’re correct devils advocate. There’s heaps of RZ1 areas in Canberra where you can’t put a dual occupancy or secondary dwelling under either the old or the new planning rules.

These restricted areas are often in sought after single residence large house blocks in the older inner suburbs of Reid, Ainslie, O’Connor, Forrest, Griffith and Deakin.

These suburbs are often exempt from secondary dwellings under blanket residential precincts, heritage and environmental regulations.

devils_advocate12:01 pm 07 Dec 23

Halving the LVC would increase redevelopment across all categories of multi-unit dwelling zones, not just RZ1

The 120sqm limit is also arbitrary, as he points out there are other development controls which are agnostic of the dwelling size (subject to the block size)

Saying that a 800m block can support a 120sqm dwelling but the same limit applies to a 1200m block illustrates the stupidity of the limit

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.