The recent introduced Garden Area (GA)  requirement is reducing development yield and making housing unaffordable.

While the intention was honourable, the application in its purest form is a barrier to development.

The trade off against the 25-35% mandatory Garden Area requirement was to increase the building height. That application is easier said than approved by Councils in Victoria.

The GA came into force to create more built form  separation between a townhouse/dual occupancy development and the adjoining neighbouring properties, which in many instances are single detached dwellings.

By implementing the GA the Planning Minister recommended taller buildings  should occupy smaller footprints thereby leaving more open spaces for landscaping.

However, there was that N word caveat- any new  built form should respect N for neighbourhood character.

If one was to apply this concept, try getting a mid to outer ring Council to support a three-storey townhouse development in a typical suburban street where most dwellings are single storey with some recent two storey dwellings.

Our real-life studies show a typical backyard which could yield 2 dwellings by going up 3 levels would be restricted to one double storey dwelling. That is one family left out of the housing or rental  market!

In other projects, the GA reduced the number of townhouses from five to four or from three, three-bedroom townhouses to one  three bedroom and two to bedroom townhouses.

In all such instances, the developer ended paying more per unit site, which in turn would be passed on to the end user, who is most likely a first home buyer.


Swarup Dutta, AuArchitecture’s Founder, is a Registered Planner and affiliated with the Australian Institute of Architects, Planning Institute of Australia and Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association. While consulting to real estate developers and Architects he managed over 250 planning permits in Victoria.