Updated Better Apartment Design Standards released

The Property Council has welcomed the Victorian Government’s commitment to working with the property industry to deliver high quality, liveable apartment communities for our growing population. However, following the release of the updated Better Apartment Design Standards, the Property Council has cautioned that the Guidelines will have an impact on housing affordability and project feasibility at a time when Melbourne desperately needs to boost the apartment supply pipeline.

The updates to the Standards, originally implemented in 2017, focus on four key themes:

  • Green space: providing communal open space in common areas of buildings of 10 dwellings or more (changed from 40 dwellings or more);
  • External materials: building facades should incorporate materials that are durable and "make a positive contribution to the existing streetscape";
  • Wind impacts: planning permit applications for apartment buildings of five or more storeys must consider wind impacts and demonstrate safety and comfort for pedestrians and people using common outdoor areas;
  • Integration with the street: street frontages should avoid blank walls or high fences, while car parking entrances and waste collection areas should not be visible from the street.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has released new resources for the industry to support the implementation of the updated Standards, including fact sheets and practice notes.

The Property Council has again put forward the industry's concerns which we highlighted in our submission and directly to the Minister, there would be a significant cost burden to purchasers of new apartments as a result of the new landscaping and communal open space requirements. We will be undertaking further analysis of the impact of the changes with our members through our Planning and Infill Committee, to provide the Government with urgent advice on the cost impact of the new Standards for homebuyers.

Danni Hunter, Victorian Executive Director at the Property Council of Australia, attended the launch of the Standards with Minster for Planning and Housing, The Hon. Richard Wynne MP on Sunday. Here is what she had to say:

  • "The updated Standards give the property industry a framework to design and build high quality homes and new communities. They give purchasers the confidence that apartments will be great places to live.
  • "The implementation and councils' application of the Standards need to remain flexible enough to adapt to the change desires of Melburnians and how we want to live. COVID has changed the way we use our homes - they are now our workplaces, our restaurants and our exercise spaces. We want apartments to be able to meet the changing desires of Melburnians and the property industry is committed to designing and building highly liveable apartment communities.
  • "Along with great design outcomes, the Victorian Government and local councils must make sure that apartments continue to be an affordable housing option for all Victorians. Apartments are 38% cheaper than the average house in Melbourne and they deliver a way in to well serviced and highly valued suburbs. We have to protect Melbourne's affordability advantage and apartment supply pipeline by ensuring that design requirements are flexible enough to respond to the changing desires and affordability levels of purchasers.
  • "The apartment project pipeline is much smaller than recent years, with many projects currently on hold as developers wait out the economic effects of COVID and low population growth. We are looking to the Victorian Government to consider targeted stimulus measures as part of the 2022 State Budget, that would drive apartment sales activity and lock in Victorian jobs in coming years.
  • "Victoria grew by only 12,000 people last year, in comparison to 114,000 the year before. But inevitably we will return to higher levels of population growth and it’s important that the apartment supply pipeline remains strong so that we have enough apartments to meet future demand and keep Melbourne affordable for homebuyers."

You can see more of the Property Council's views covered in today's media:

For more information or feedback through the Property Council's Policy Team, please email vic@propertycouncil.com.au.