New apartment rules get into the nitty-gritty
The property sector has broadly embraced new standards set for Victorian apartments aimed at ensuring high-rise units have sufficient access to light, air and storage.
The new rules, foreshadowed by the state government in August, have now been finalised and will take effect from next March.
The Victorian approach differs from that taken in Sydney, which has set minimum sizes for apartments, including 50 square metres for one-bedroom apartments and 70 sqm for two-bedders.
The Victorian standards, set by Planning Minister Richard Wynne, do not impose minimum unit sizes but focus instead on specifying the minimum requirements for rooms.
Under Wynne’s rules, main bedrooms must be a minimum of 3 metres by 3.4 metres. All other bedrooms must be at least 3 metres by 3 metres.
Mr Wynne, one of the state’s taller politicians, has determined that ceilings must be at least 2.7 metres. Habitable rooms must have windows.
Storage must be at least 5 cubic metes for studios ranging up to 12 cubic metres for a three-bedroom unit.
The new system has some flexibility. The rules state that while each design standard should “normally be met”, planning authorities can consider alternate solutions that satisfy the overall design objective.
“We feel these standards strike a balance, putting a stop to windowless, airless boxes while keeping apartment living affordable,” Mr Wynne said.
“We’ve now got a set of rules which outlines specifics, such as ceiling heights and balcony spaces, rather than a blanket one-size-fits-all minimum apartment size.”
The Property Council’s Victorian executive director, Sally Capp, said the new standards were “good policy” that would set an industry benchmarks to ensure quality.
“On balance, this is a workable policy that the government is to be commended on,” Ms Capp said.
“Whilst we welcome the standards, there are still some measures that are too prescriptive such as the minimum balcony requirements.
“The new setback provisions recognise that each development needs to be assessed on a merits basis and within a local context; we agree that there should not be a one-size-fits-all solution.”
The Urban Development Institute of Australia, a lobby group for developers, backed the new rules.
“We are especially supportive of the decision to enable alternative design solutions, which puts a clearer focus on good design outcomes rather than prescriptive structural outcomes that stifle innovation, limit housing diversity and place upward pressure on prices,” said Victorian chief executive Danni Addison.