Victoria has stopped short of imposing minimum unit sizes as it introduces new apartment standards to improve high rise amenity and access to air and light.
The Victorian approach, outlined by state planning minister Richard Wynne, differs from Sydney, which has set minimum sizes for apartments, including 50 square metres for one-bedroom apartments and 70 sqm for two-bedders.
Instead, the new Victorian controls, still in draft, require that apartments have enough daylight and ventilation, and set out energy and waste efficiency requirements and noise minimisation measures.
The new rules set a minimum standard ceiling height of 2.7 metres. Any habitable room must have direct access to daylight, with the window visible from any point within the room.
“There are a number of apartments that have been built in Melbourne which frankly don’t reach in our view a minimum standard,” Mr Wynne said on Sunday.
“Buildings that rely on borrowed light, buildings that have poor ventilation, buildings where you can barely put a double bed into the bedroom: this is not the quality of apartments that we should have.”
Mr Wynne’s press conference on the new regime was held at a Lendlease development in Docklands, within a one-bedroom apartment of 48-square metre, less than the Sydney standard.
The decision not to establish Sydney-style minimum sizes was not a “cop-out”, Mr Wynne said.
“The opportunity in an apartment like this, at 48 square metres, achieves and in fact exceeds the guidelines that we are putting in place.
“We will not be mandating minimum sizes because we want to ensure that good design is a part of this solution.”
The new system allows for some flexibility. While each standard should normally be met, planning authorities can consider alternate solutions that still satisfy the overall design objective.
“The guidelines will give people the confidence of a consistent approach to development, while offering the flexibility for those innovative proposals required to create the best places,” said Mark Menhennitt, Lendlease’s managing director of urban regeneration.
The Property Council of Australia’s Victorian acting executive director Asher Judah described the new controls as “guidelines with teeth” rather than strict rules.
Mr Judah rated the system a 7 of of 10, and is hoping for more leeway on provisions on borrowed light and cross-ventilation.
“The decision on minimum apartment sizes is a good one. It will ensure that apartments continue to be affordable and market demand is met by developers.”
One of Australia’s best-known private developers, Grocon, also praised the new provisions for fostering quality and innovation.
“The draft standards do not include onerous or expensive inclusions,” innovation chief David Waldren said. ” Standards do not preclude innovation, and never have.”