Developers will be able to try out new models of housing that don't fit with the ACT's current planning rules in a series of new demonstration housing precincts across Canberra.
The government will start accepting pitches early next year from organisations and people who wanted to build sustainable and affordable housing, planning minister Mick Gentleman announced in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.
Mr Gentleman said the government was looking at using the precincts to measure the impacts of possible changes to the territory plan.
"Canberra's architecture and construction industries have delivered many award-winning examples of housing projects that showcase environmental performance. However Canberra's overall low density presents many transport, environment, social and economic challenges for our city both now and into the future," Mr Gentleman said.
"Therefore it is important that Canberra as the nation's capital, takes a national leadership role on housing design and delivery."
Mr Gentleman expected models put forward to include small-scale infill, like compact laneway housing, duplexes or triplexes; or co-housing developments like Western Australia's baugruppen, where interested buyers come together and fund the construction of an apartment block without a developer.
He said joint ventures like Ginninderry could also be put up to become part of a demonstration housing precinct.
Mr Gentleman cited apartment blocks in Denmark, where residential car parking is not provided on site but in a centralised spot 200 metres away, or Singapore where crops are grown on rooftops in the heart of the city, as inspiration.
"We are confident that demonstration housing precincts will support industry to deliver more sustainable, liveable neighbourhoods with better transport choices," Mr Gentleman told the Assembly.
"Encouraging design quality and innovative delivery models could also have significant positive impacts on housing affordability, the environment, community health, social values and economic prosperity."
ACT Council of Social Services director Susan Helyar welcomed the use of demonstration precincts to "test the feasibility and community appetite" for reform but said it must be done for the right reasons.
"The views and expectations of the target group - people living on low incomes, people with disabilities looking for more accessible housing, older people looking for housing that suits them as they downsize or become less mobile and students - need to be at the forefront of design processes and decisions about what demonstration projects get approval," Ms Helyar said.
Property Council ACT executive director Adina Cirson described the idea as "out-of-the-box" thinking.
"The government has the levers required to drive investment and renewal in our city. We are very supportive of precinct based planning," Ms Cirson said.
"The property sector here is constantly trying to innovate to get better outcomes for all and we are excited about the opportunity for partnerships to deliver projects which best meet the needs of Canberrans."
The government will shortlist ideas from prospective proponents and aks them to submit more detail for scrutiny.
The plans will then be discussed with the community and key stakeholders mid next year.
The criteria for successful proponents is still being developed, a Planning Directorate spokeswoman said, but will likely include te construction and design quality, whether it is carbon neutral, and if it is public or affordable housing.