New apartment standards aim to boost quality of life, but prices tipped to rise too

New design standards to improve access to public space could push up prices of new buildings but the Property Council predicts the pay-offs in liveability will be so “enormous” the changes will be supported by industry and buyers.

Under standards outlined on Sunday, the Victorian government will mandate that new apartment blocks with more than 10 dwellings must have access to communal green space.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne announces the standards on Sunday. He says with the rise in home working, “amenity becomes a really important element” in apartment design.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Apartment buildings taller than five storeys will be required to avoid “wind tunnelling” through sensitive design, and balconies will be eliminated on buildings taller than 40 metres to reduce overshadowing and “windswept” and underused balconies.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the changes reflected the fact people increasingly wanted more from their homes.

“It’s essentially an understanding that for many people, their home is not just a sanctuary, it has also been a place where they work for the last 12 months,” he said. “So amenity becomes a really important element in this conversation.”

In Melbourne, the median price of apartments is 38 per cent cheaper than the median house price.

Property Council boss Danni Hunter acknowledged the changes could push up apartment prices, particularly the requirement to include open space within an apartment building’s footprint.

“The biggest change in these apartment design guidelines is around the open space and landscaping requirements, but they really do offer such enormous livability benefits that the industry is supportive,” she said.

“What we’re choosing here is high levels of amenity and choosing liveability. And yes, that may have an impact on house prices and apartment prices, but it will be an important impact where purchasers will actually be able to recognise that these apartments are more livable and have a higher standard.”

Despite Victoria’s low population growth rate during 2020 – the state rose by 12,000 people last year compared with 114,000 in 2019 – Ms Hunter maintained it would “inevitably” return to higher growth and demand for new apartments.

“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 home buyers,” she said.

But the Housing Industry of Australia predicts the market for new apartments will cool this year, given the loss of overseas migration and lower population growth in Victoria.

HIA analysis released earlier this month predicted that building on 19,700 new apartments would start this financial year, down from 22,500 in 2019-20. The association predicted this would fall to 14,500 new apartments in 2021-22 and 14,100 the following year.

Executive director Fiona Nield said lower population growth and the loss of overseas migration were providing strong conditions for detached homes, but “a cooling in Victoria’s multi-units market was always expected, given the heights from which it was coming down”.

“The absence of overseas and interstate-driven population growth will accelerate the cooling of the local housing market in 2023 and beyond, especially apartments,” she said.

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