4 September 2023

'What's allowed to occur in RZ1 is likely to change,' Barr says ahead of major planning reforms

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Aerial view of City Hill, Canberra

The Chief Minister said what is permitted in RZ1 – the zoning that most of Canberra falls under – is likely to change soon. Photo: CRA.

Major planning reforms are set to be announced next week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Monday (4 September).

While he did not give details about the specific nature of the reforms, Mr Barr said there will likely be changes to the RZ1 zone and what is permitted within these areas.

“RZ1 will continue to exist as a residential zone. What’s allowed to occur in RZ1 is likely to change in a way that is consistent with the path of gentle urbanism that I’ve been talking about for many years,” he said.

The ACT Government is considering several different reforms to increase housing supply across the territory.

“Across a number of different programs, from public housing, social and affordable housing, large scale build-to-rent and planning system reform, we are looking across the entire spectrum of housing supply, with a view to increasing it,” Mr Barr said.

“As an Assembly, we’ve enacted the new planning legislation. The next part of that reform journey is the Territory Plan and district plans. And there’s been a very focused conversation within the Assembly about making changes that will drive an increase in housing supply.

“I think what we need is an opportunity to see more housing built in a sustainable way that provides a range of accommodation choices in places that people want to live. Canberra’s housing supply can’t be exclusively met by greenfield development 30 or 40 kilometres from centres of employment and services. It’s got to be a mixture of new estates of infill in certain areas and addressing the missing middle, which has been the subject of quite a lot of conversation for several days.”

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The RZ1 zone comprises more than 80 per cent of all residential zoned areas in the ACT. This suburban zone allows for predominantly single-dwelling, low-rise and low-density homes.

Dual occupancies are permitted on RZ1 blocks over 800 square metres, but they are not permitted to be subdivided or unit-titled and cannot be sold separately, while new RZ1 areas do not allow multi-unit housing.

There have been repeated calls for changes to the RZ1 suburban zone to permit a wider range of housing to be built. On 24 August, the ACT Greens announced their support for reforms to Canberra zoning laws, which included upzoning RZ1 to RZ2 to allow the construction of low-impact, medium-density housing in all RZ1 areas, along with the upzoning of RZ2 areas to permit further development in these suburbs.

“Current policy settings regarding our planning system are inadequate to deliver a liveable city that meets the needs of a growing population in a climate that is hotter and drier, and to ensure equitable access to homes close to amenities to ensure a high quality of life for all,” the motion said.

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Mr Barr has been clear that the Territory Plan will be the key to unlocking new affordable housing in Canberra within the existing urban footprint, in areas where people want to live, with close proximity to workplaces and public transport.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be a decision of the Assembly. When the new Territory Plan is brought forward for a final vote, Assembly members will be voting either for or against more housing in Canberra,” he said in June.

The ACT Government has been under pressure to release the new Territory Plan for several months, with Planning and Land Development Minister Mick Gentleman saying at the beginning of June, when the legislation passed in the Assembly, that it would be released soon.

Last month, Mr Gentleman told Region that Cabinet was considering the revised Territory Plans and District Strategies, which received more than 3000 pieces of feedback from public consultation.

“Over the past few months, the government has been carefully considering the extensive feedback,” he said.

For industry stakeholders, though, the wait has created even more confusion at a time when the housing sector is already in a state of uncertainty.

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Andrew Cooke1:39 pm 06 Sep 23

While I can understand some people’s apprehension to the idea of urban infill I look forward to seeing what this will do to Canberra’s suburbs.

Alas, I am less excited about urban infill for lots of reasons mainly because I dont think past infill policies have been effective (based on my own observations and the many community councils submissions to the planning reviews) or properly evaluated.

In terms of what is next, these articles from Auckland give a sense of why the Canberra community should be be amping up their apprehension. Google “Another urban planning fail, and Auckland’s outer suburbs get shafted” or “The suburb that’s being razed and rebuilt” both in the SpinOff in NZ.

Closer to home the DOWNER COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION – SUBMISSION ON THE DRAFT INNER NORTH AND CITY DISTRICT STRATEGY (DISTRICT PLAN) gives a relevant history that could be read as a forecast for other suburbs.

Clever Interrobang8:22 am 06 Sep 23

One more step towards the government giving up on controlling housing policy and just letting private interests do whatever they want.

HiddenDragon7:08 pm 05 Sep 23

This is the ACT Labor/Green government declaring war on Canberra suburbia.

It will be dressed up with reassuring words about what will and will not be allowed at the outset – and certainly until the 2024 Territory election is out of the way – and then it will be open slather, with toxic, divisive, greed-driven upheaval ripping its way through suburb after suburb.

I suppose that means Canberra’s heritage listed Garden City housing precincts will be trashed?

“Over the past few months, the government has been carefully considering the extensive feedback,”…. and plan ignore what the community has told us and usher in an intense period of knocking down existing houses to build large duplexes and triplexes with minimal green space, privacy. The government will just speak platitudes and cross fingers that diverse affordable dwellings are built in the future, when the past development of Rz2 demonstrates that neither diverse building forms or affordability will be achieved.

devils_advocate12:53 pm 05 Sep 23

Barr: we want more urban infill
Also Barr: increase the lease variation charge from $7k to $55k in less than a decade


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