Better Apartment Design Standards, Victoria: New rules for balconies, prices could jump

Melbourne’s apartment construction sector could suffer, and homebuyers could cop a $20k increase, under a government tweak to the Better Apartment Design Standards.

Apartment buyers may end up paying an extra $20,000 for their homes under new guidelines announced by the state government on Sunday.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Victorian chapter made this estimate after a range of construction groups warned the update to the Better Apartment Design Standards could stifle the sector’s recovery from COVID-19 and hit the Victorian economy.

The revisions to the state’s Better Apartments standards, announced by Planning Minister Richard Wynne, require developers to scrap balconies for apartment towers above 40m tall and to increase the prevalence of green spaces.

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Apartment developments with more than 10 homes would be required to include a communal outdoor space, up from those with 40 homes under prior guidelines.

Buildings above five storeys high would have to include wind-tunnel modelling when establishing impacts from the build.

Blank walls and high fences would be barred at street level, while car park entries and rubbish bin collection points would need to be out of sight.

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Apartment construction is expected to fall in Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty

The changes are aimed at helping build better communities in new developments and boosting energy efficiency, as well as resident health and wellbeing.

UDIA Victorian division president Ashley Williams said the new guidelines would take choice away from homebuyers, and hit the state’s economy as a “significant reduction in new projects that make it into construction”.

“We estimate the proposed landscaped communal open space will add up to $20,000 per apartment,” Mr Williams said.

“The rigid application of these guidelines will lead to increasing construction costs that will erode project viability and ultimately lead to reduced housing supply and housing affordability.”

Apartment Towers

The city’s high-rise construction has led the nation in recent years, but is now tipped to wane.

Property Council of Australia Victorian executive director Danni Hunter said the industry was already seeking targeted stimulus for the apartment construction sector as a result of COVID-19 and low-population-growth impacts.

The group will present economic modelling estimating the economic fallout of the tweaks to the government in about a fortnight.

“We have to protect Melbourne’s affordability advantage and apartment supply pipeline by ensuring design requirements are flexible enough to respond to the changing desires and affordability levels of purchasers,” Ms Hunter said.

Upon releasing the new guidelines, the Planning Minister said they were “crucial” to liveability and wellbeing for future high-density living.

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The Planning Minister argues better construction will improve long-term outcomes for apartment residents. Picture: David Geraghty.

“People are spending more time in their homes and are using their apartments as places of work,” Mr Wynne said.

“Having green space and communal areas is vital to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of apartment residents.”

A government spokesperson said economic modelling had demonstrated an overall community benefit from the changes.

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