Originally published by Katie Burgess – Canberra Times 27/11/2017
Canberra’s transport corridors should have separate planning rules to encourage higher density, the ACT’s peak body for architects has said.
The Australian Institute of Architects ACT chapter has released their vision for how Canberra’s zoning restrictions should be changed to revitalise the city.
It comes after the ACT government released a discussion paper suggesting the rules around dual occupancies in RZ1 could be relaxed to allow separate unit titling.
President Rob Henry said he saw more dual occupancies as a “viable” option.
“We don’t have a shortfall of housing in Canberra, we’re producing more houses than the population growth requires right now but we’re not producing the right kinds of housing,” Mr Henry said.
“You’ve got single houses and apartment buildings and the community wants something different.
“You’ve got people wanting to live in the suburbs they’ve grown up in but they want a more compact housing solution in that suburb.”
Mr Henry said there were opportunities to deploy a more strategic and “fine-grained” approach to zoning to make the most of existing municipal services.
“We’d like to see some mapping happening through various suburbs to look at transport routes and how we can densify along those routes,” Mr Henry said.
“We can do some increase in density in RZ1 if dual occupancies are allowed but we need to map the city better to see if we can increase RZ2 zones to allow larger developments.
“We should be looking around suburban shopping centres, and route from those that lead to major roads.
“These routes already have bus lines on them and some of them may have light rail lines in future. We want to be doing it where we know light rail will be running through in close proximity.”
Mr Henry said the government should also reconsider whether new developments near transport corridors need on-site parking.
ACT planning rules dictate one-bedroom apartment should have at least one car spot; two bedroom apartments should have at least 1.5; and apartments of three bedrooms or more need two car spaces.
There also needs to be one visitor space for every four homes in a complex.
“Plenty of people don’t have cars, don’t want cars, and if going to strengthen our public transport network we can reduce space for car parking requirements,” Mr Henry said.
“You’re not going to put no car parking out in suburbs but right in the heart of the city centre there’s a reason for doing it.
“Some people out there will be happy to buy an apartment without car parking.”
Another Canberra architect Allan Spira said building new apartment blocks without parking was a good way to make housing more affordable”.
He cited the Nightingale project in Melbourne, where the architecturally-designed homes came without parking and other frills, and without the exorbitant price tag.
“Basement car parking is incredibly expensive to build,” Mr Spira said.
“The current zoning system is too much of a blunt tool for allowing innovative provisions of these sorts of things. We need a much more strategic approach.”
A spokesman for Housing Minister Yvette Berry said in June the government was looking closely at the Nightingale model and how it could be applied to Canberra.
Mr Spira said they had been able to gain concessions in Melbourne to build under the Nightingale model.
Mr Henry called for a demonstration precinct to be established, where planning rules could be bent to shape future policies.
A demonstration precinct was planned for the Molonglo Valley, but that fell through.
“It could be done through government or private investment but the idea is there’s some flexibility within the territory plan rules, so some of the mandatory rules would be wavered to allow us to experiment on how to create the right density, the right community and the right amount of green space,” Mr Henry said.
“There could be several architects involved, designing together so all the buildings are expecting each other, getting the right plot ratio, green space, car parking.”