- As Melbourne’s housing shortfall grows dire, the state government signals planning reform.
- “The devil will be in the details,” says YIMBY Melbourne’s Jonathan O’Brien.
- “We have this decades-old planning system being constantly weaponised by a vocal minority. We know the Government recognises this, and we hope to see them make the strong changes necessary to create abundant and affordable housing for all Melburnians.”
In his budget speech, Treasurer Tim Pallas stated that“Victoria is now home to the best student city in Australia”. Meanwhile, international students are facing soaring rents and cramped and overcrowded living spaces due to a lack of secure housing available. The Government's ownPlan Melbourne 2050 report, released in 2017, stated a need for 1.6 million additional homes by 2050, equivalent to 46,000 new homes being built each year.In 2022, just 36,859 new builds were approved state-wide, representing an enormous shortfall of the government's own goals.
Rate hikes and rising material costs play a role in this shortfall—but an enormous driver is the government's own cumbersome planning and approval processes.
Case studies litter the Homes Victoria's own website. Beginning in 2016, it took five years of 'community consultation' and another two months of 'additional community consultation' to even start building 178 affordable and social homes in Ashburton.
In Prahan, a similar story: community consultation for 445 new social and private homes began in 2016 and ended in 2021, with completion estimated for 2024.
It is a myth that our planning laws are used only as a check on private developers and market-rate housing: the reality is that the people who suffer most under the current planning system are those who need housing not just today—but years and years ago, when projects like those above were meant to begin. It is no secret that our planning system is weaponised by privileged residents against social and affordable housing.
YIMBY Melbourne is thrilled to see the state government acknowledge this problem, and to back it up with $23 million in funding for state-wide planning reform. We hope that the scope of this reform is broad enough to achieve its stated goal of unlocking housing supply across Melbourne and Victoria, and reducing the number of delays faced by new housing projects.
We hope to see provisions for general upzoning, strong incentives for councils to increase density, and fast-tracked implementation of greater housing densities around transport hubs and existing infrastructure.
The inclusion of targeted interventions to assist Victoria’s most vulnerable populations amidst a housing crisis is welcome. In the midst of a housing crisis where a growing number of people are experiencing housing stress and facing the real prospect of homelessness, extra funding to assist people experiencing homelessness and young people with complex needs is needed, and well received.
But the$101 million of targeted interventions into homelessness pales in comparison to the massive $1.1 billion increase in the Victorian Homebuyer Fund that will at best do nothing, and at worst push home prices even higher for the many aspiring homeowners who will be inevitably unable to access the program.
We echo here the position of Infrastructure Victoria's Jonathan Spear: stamp duty and attempts to subsidise demand do nothing to solve the housing crisis. The Government must take the advice of the Grattan Institute and economists everywhere, and remove residential stamp duty and implement broad planning reforms to enable more Victorians to live in secure homes. We look forward to seeing the beginnings of these reforms over the coming months.