Chief Minister Andrew Barr has gone into bat for the 120 square metre size limit to dual occupancy development in Canberra’s residential zone, rejecting the notion that that kind of home is a mere granny flat.
“That’s enormous,” he told the ACT Property Council lunch on Thursday.
“I live in a 120 sqm house, an extended ex-govvie. There’s two of us and one very large cat. We don’t need that 250 sqm house.”
Mr Barr said the size limit was aimed at enabling more affordable detached homes to be built in Canberra to provide more choice in the market.
“One hundred and twenty square metres is bigger than most two-bedroom apartments, bigger than most three-bedroom apartments, and it is designed for downsizers to people in their first entry point into the housing market,” he said.
Mr Barr said the Rz1 and RZ2 policies, which will also allow two-storey apartments to be built, were designed to have a better allocation of housing across the Canberra demographic.
“2.4 people [the average number of people in a Canberra home] rattling around in a five-bedroom home not so good. Families of five in crowded accommodation is not so good. There is a bit of a mismatch, so we’ve extended planning and tax policies to address that,” he said.
Mr Barr said the government was focused on building homes that people could afford to buy where they wanted to live.
He said anything more than a 120 sqm home, which would sell for $700,000 to $800,000, would be out of the reach of many first-home buyers.
“At $4000 or $5000 per sqm to construct, how is a 250 sqm house going to be affordable for anyone,” Mr Barr said.
“In the end, the housing affordability equation is going to be a combination of the land value and how many dollars per square metre the construction costs and then the profit margin for the developer on top of that,” he said.
“That’s going to be the selling price. If we just go on building the biggest houses in the world, we’re not going to improve housing affordability.”
Mr Barr also took aim at calls for single detached homes to be a bigger slice of the market, saying they were already dominant and would not be enough to provide the housing needs of a growing Canberra over the next decade.
Mr Barr said of Canberra’s 195,000 dwellings, around 123,000 or 63 per cent were single residential dwellings, about 38,000 or 20 per cent were apartments, and the balance of about 33,000 or 17 per cent were the so-called missing middle, the semi-detached townhouses and terraces.
He said the ACT would need at least 100,000 additional homes on top of the 200,000 it would have by 2025, probably before 2050.
“This obviously cannot be achieved through single residential dwellings on quarter acre blocks,” he said.
“It’s neither practical, deliverable or economically or environmentally sensible,” Mr Barr said.
“100,000 additional homes over the next 20 to 25 years will require the full mix of housing types to ensure affordability, to provide people with choice but also to maximise the opportunity from our existing social and economic infrastructure.
“So delivering additional missing-middle housing through an approach I’ve described as gentle urbanism is the government’s preferred pathway that is underpinned by the planning system reforms.”
Mr Barr said the RZ1 changes could unlock nearly 50,000 potential secondary dwellings across the city over the coming decades.
He said the RZ2 changes to allow two-storey apartment complexes were also important because that would provide more single-level homes so people could age in place, close to where they may already have lived.