City apartment affordability fears

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has started the long-anticipated debate on standards for apartment construction with the release last month of a discussion paper, ‘Better Apartments’.

While most people agree on the need for standards relating to adequate natural light, ventilation and privacy, it is feared that mandated minimum size will adversely affect affordability.

The Property Industry Council estimates that a 50sqm apartment could cost $90,000 more than a 40sqm inner city apartment.

Property Council Victorian executive director Jennifer Cunich said: “Disappointingly, the discussion paper barely mentions housing affordability, which should be the Government’s number one priority.”

“Consideration of housing affordability must remain front and centre. A five square metre increase in size can add as much as $45,000 to the price of an apartment. Cost increases such as this can easily place home ownership beyond the reach of many aspiring home buyers.”

Mr Wynne says higher standards of apartment design are needed to avoid poorly designed homes lacking space, light and ventilation.

According to the report, another 480,000 apartments will be needed in Melbourne alone to accommodate a projected population of 7.7 million by 2051.

“Melbourne is set to house almost 100,000 new residents each year and we need to plan for that growth,” Mr Wynne said.

The discussion paper aims to prompt conversations with community and industry stakeholders to shape future apartment design guidelines.

Ms Cunich says the industry was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the standards but also warned that developers would not support the outcome unless it co-authored with other stakeholders the final standard.

“History in this policy space has shown that design standards developed without industry support have failed to meet the expectations of their authors, facilitators or the broader community,” she said.

Mr Wynne said: “This is more than establishing minimum standards, it’s about keeping pace with how people want to live.”

The Better Apartments discussion paper raises a number of issues relating to apartment design in Victoria, including:

Lack of natural light;

Apartments too small or poorly designed;

Achieving a quality outlook for all apartments;

Lack of natural ventilation;

External noise;

Access to outdoor space; and

Long-term adaptability of apartment buildings.

Submissions on the discussion paper are due next month and community forums and industry roundtable events will also be held. Draft guidelines will be released in late 2015 and the final report will be handed to the Minister in mid 2016.

To view the discussion paper visit

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