Squeeze million new homes into existing city, experts tell planning minister [The Age]


Charting the Melbourne’s areas of growth as we forge towards 2050. 1 million homes are set to be built to accommodate the almost doubling of Melbourne’s population from 4.4 million to 8 million. What is in question is where to position this growth? Based on research from RMIT – it seems the academics are suggesting that the brakes be on for us on the fringe… They’re recommending that growth areas in the periphery from the projected 600k + homes to just over 350k.


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Squeeze million new homes into existing city, experts tell planning minister
by Clay Lucas
Source – The Age, published October 22, 2015

One million more homes could be squeezed into Melbourne’s current boundaries by 2050, reducing urban sprawl – but only if most of them are built in the city’s politically sensitive middle ring of suburbs.

These are the findings of research handed to the Andrews government by a team of RMIT academics led by Professor Michael Buxton.

Their work argues for a radical change in the city’s growth pattern, as Melbourne swells from 4.4 million people today to 8 million by 2050.

Illustration: Matt GoldingIllustration: Matt Golding

That population growth will bring with it a predicted need for 1.6 million new homes.

In a bid to avoid more open space and farming land on the fringe being swallowed for housing, the study proposes redirecting much of the growth into the middle suburbs – with beefed-up rules to protect existing housing and heritage.

“We should be building intensified neighbourhoods, but it is happening in an ad hoc, terrible way at present,” Professor Buxton said.

The city’s middle suburbs should, instead of taking 650,000 new homes as directed under the city’s main planning strategy Plan Melbourne, see almost 1 million dwellings by 2050.


To prove this was possible the report identifies every piece of developable land over 450 square metres within Melbourne’s boundaries. It found no shortage of available land.

But developments on many in-fill sites were “largely ad-hoc and driven by developer preferences”, the report finds, leading to “large-scale detrimental impacts”.

The report calls on the government to intervene to “transform the highrise model” to one of a “traditional European urban form with three-to-six storey apartment buildings and townhouse developments”.

There needed to be “the massive provision of new services and infrastructure, such as new parks, public transport, schools and social services” for this to work, the report said.

However, the report also calls for the protection of all strip shopping centres built before the end of World War Two, and argues current heritage protection rules are inadequate.

Professor Buxton said the Victorian government needed to take a far more active role in planning Melbourne’s growth by identifying where land was available, its location, and appropriate building types on it. “The alternative is to leave decisions on development type, size and location to the development industry.”

Among those wishing for tougher protections for Melbourne’s middle-ring suburbs is Robyn Morgan, who lives in McKinnon – the city’s epicentre of medium-density development.

But any added protections will come too late for Ms Morgan’s family and others in the street, who opposed a three-storey development with 22 apartments.

Two timber cottages built in the 1920s will be bulldozed to make way for the project.

“They are quaint, highly liveable family homes,” said Ms Morgan. “No one in the street knew about it until the permit application was put up in front of the houses.”

Professor Buxton said the intensification of suburbia could not happen in the way it had in places like McKinnon and Bentleigh.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said he would consider the report’s recommendations, and that continuing to provide housing in the city’s growth areas was an important part of keeping housing affordable. But continued sprawl was “unsustainable”.

Opposition planning spokesman David Davis said that Mr Wynne was “going to force development in Melbourne’s middle suburbs. … Under Melbourne 2030, Labor trashed many of Melbourne’s gems.”
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