Victoria to Combat Cramped Apartments

Monday, May 18th, 2015
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The belated introduction of design guidelines and minimum floorspace requirements promises to dramatically improve the quality of residential units in Victoria.

The Victorian government hopes to increase the size and quality of apartments in the state following a report highlighting the cramped scale of new units entering the market.

The report from the state government indicates that over three quarters of one-bedroom units under development in Victoria measure 50 square metres or less in area.

This means that a sizeable percentage of Victorian apartments would be illegal to build in Sydney, where the minimum floorspace is 50 square metres for a single bedroom unit and 70 square metres for a two bedroom unit.

The government report further noted that new construction is heavily skewed towards these smaller residences ill-suited to families, with only 5 per cent of units current being built or sold containing three bedrooms or more.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has expressed concern about the cramped dimensions of the new wave of residential apartments in Victoria, pointing out that they are “often referred to as dog boxes” and fail to provide sufficient liveable space for occupants.

“These inferior developments do not do out city justice. It’s not very liveable – it’s not very Melbourne – if a resident must rely on borrowed light,” said Wynne.

Unlike other jurisdictions within Australia such as Sydney and Adelaide, Victoria currently has no design guidelines for apartments or regulations pertaining to minimum unit sizes, with some considering this to be key reason for the prevalence of shoddy housing throughout Melbourne,

Victoria’s state architect mulled the introduction of new regulations last year, however, to bring the minimum floorspace for single bedroom apartments in line with Sydney at 50 square metres, as well as mandate that two bedroom apartments cover at least 65 square metres.

Wynne has since launched the Better Apartments discussion paper and called for feedback on improving apartment design between now and July, with a set of guidelines slated for delivery by mid-2016.

In addition to mandating minimum size requirements for units in Victoria, the state government may also introduce other requirements concerning accessibility, ventilation, natural light ingress and noise, as part of efforts to raise overall apartment liveability.

Apartment quality is a critical issue for Melbourne’s urban development given that the city will need to build a huge swathe of residential property to accommodate significant population gains in the upcoming decades.

According to estimates by the state government the population of Melbourne is set to rise to 7.7 million by mid-century, requiring the construction of as many 480,000 new apartments.

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