Victoria

The Melbourne suburbs shunning new homes

Melbourne's northern suburbs are absorbing thousands of new homes within existing streets, while large swaths of "green leafy" postcodes in Melbourne's inner east are being shielded from densification.

New research has confirmed what was already suspected – south-eastern councils including Boroondara, Bayside, Glen Eira and Whitehorse are avoiding development by locking up large swaths of their suburbs with a restrictive "neighbourhood" zone which bans medium-density housing.

An extra 158,000 people will move into the eastern subregion over 15 years, bringing its total population to about 1.2 ...
An extra 158,000 people will move into the eastern subregion over 15 years, bringing its total population to about 1.2 million or 20.5 per cent of Melbourne's population. Photo: James Davies

The population of the eastern subregion (which includes suburbs like Ashburton and Camberwell) is now predicted to fall by almost 4 per cent by 2031 in proportion to other areas that have allocated more land to be rebuilt.

An extra 158,000 people will move into the area over 15 years, bringing its total population to about 1.2 million or 20.5 per cent of Melbourne's population.

Leafy suburbs like Camberwell are shunning densification.
Leafy suburbs like Camberwell are shunning densification.  Photo: Josh Robenstone

In contrast, the northern region will expand by about 400,000 people to almost 1.3 million by 2031, while the industrial western suburbs will soak up an extra 362,000 – bringing its share of the metropolitan population to 18.5 per cent.

Transport corridors in the inner north, already teeming with new apartments, are set to add another 11,500 homes in the near future, including Lygon Street, where another 3000 units are planned.

The data was published by an independent taskforce appointed by the Andrews government to advise on its promised review of residential zones– in particular, if the new planning rules introduced by the former Coalition government have been applied consistently across Victoria.

Professor Roz Hansen, who is chairing the ministerial advisory committee on Melbourne's 40-year plan, said the government needed to take another look at areas inappropriately allocated restrictive growth zones at the request of local councils.

Whereas Box Hill is  undergoing a development boom, with thousands of apartments approved or under construction.
Whereas Box Hill is undergoing a development boom, with thousands of apartments approved or under construction.  Photo: Daniel Pockett

"I think there are a number of situations where the neighbourhood residential zone has been applied where in fact there is strong evidence that those areas are more suitable for medium-density housing [of three to six storeys]," she said.

"I don't see that we need a major overhaul of all the residential zones, but ... where there are areas that tick all the boxes – close to services, close to jobs, close to public transport, on sites where neighbourhood character is not a significant issue – then they are the areas that I believe should be given the opportunity for denser development."

Boroondara council, which encompasses the suburbs of Camberwell and Kew, has restricted housing growth in 76 per cent of its municipality and applied a growth zone allowing townhouses and apartments to just 1 per cent.

In nearby Glen Eira, 80 per cent of land is allocated to the restricted growth zone.

The government's advisers say it is too early to tell what impact these development restrictions will have on housing supply, which is still booming across Victoria.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said he was open to adjusting the residential zones, but any the impact of any changes, including spiking land values in designated growth areas, must be carefully considered.

"We need a planning system which the community has confidence in, we need to maintain our neighbourhoods but also need to encourage new development in the right locations so housing supply keeps up with population growth," Mr Wynne said.

About 66,000 dwellings were approved in Victoria last financial year, an increase from an average of 41,000 in the 2000s. While the supply of traditional detached housing has fallen from a peak in 2009-2010, approvals in apartments, semi-detached homes and units continue to increase rapidly.

By 2051 it's forecast another 3.3 million people will call Melbourne home, while regional areas can expect 800,000 new residents.

You can read the latest "State of Play" research and make submissions about residential zones at www.delwp.vic.gov.au.