Plan Melbourne 2017-2050: A new approach to urban policy

Just over three years ago, the Victorian state government announced its review of Plan Melbourne - a comprehensive plan for the city which would see it through to the year 2050 and accommodate the increase in population expected to reach 8 million. Since its introduction by a coalition government, Plan Melbourne has been revised by the incumbent Labor government.

As with its earlier incarnation, Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 provides an over-arching, long-term vision which incorporates employment and industry, transport infrastructure and housing, while addressing public expectations around liveability, community and the environment.

The new plan also maintains the existing urban growth boundary.  In other words, the intention is to avoid urban sprawl by increasing density in planned growth areas and through the selective redevelopment of under-utilised areas.

Greater Melbourne

So what is different about the revised Plan Melbourne?

Well, this plan has a specific focus on housing. Not surprising given that the projected doubling of the population in just over 30 years will call for a huge increase in accommodation.  In particular, the plan includes initiatives to deliver social and affordable housing.  It proposes to use government land for social housing and to streamline the decision-making process for these sites.

Interestingly, it also proposes to create ways to capture and share the increase in land value which results from rezoning and infrastructure projects.  In practice, this could mean that developers who benefit from the government changing the zoning on their land to allow a higher return, or who benefit from government expenditure on transport links, will have to plough back some of that profit into social and affordable housing.  It creates a win-win situation for both private and public good.

The Minister for Planning also finalised the Residential Zones Review gazetted on 27 March 2017 which introduces a requirement for an additional garden area on blocks larger than 400 sq metres.  This is in keeping with the livability objectives expressed in Plan Melbourne.  It does, however, suggest that there is going to be a tension between the aim of significantly increasing density while at the same time increasing green space on residential blocks.

Properties which are 400-500 sq metres will need to provide at least 25% garden area.  Those that are 500-650 sq metres will need 30%.  And those which are over 650 sq metres, 35%.

Developers may choose to avoid conforming to these new requirements by looking to smaller lot sizes not covered by the schedule.  Liveability and amenity are also behind the changes in apartment regulations which will see an increase in floor to ceiling heights to introduce more sunlight.  This will also affect developer yields on properties and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in new unit developments and meeting the needs of an increasing population.

The Premier released his Homes for Victorians in March, for first home buyers it proposed abolishing stamp duty and upping the First Home Owner Grant. It also proposes co purchasing arrangements and long term leases as alternatives to entry into the housing market.  So instead of a mortgage and a traditional quarter acre block, we might see some innovation and new housing options for apartments, terrace housing or small lot developments.

About the author:

Eoghan McColl Planning Manager - VIC

Eoghan’s experience comes from working in a broad range of locations, in rural, regional, metropolitan and central Melbourne contexts. This has involved a wide range of projects in statutory planning, strategic planning and major infrastructure projects. Through his work he has developed broad kills in assessing planning permit applications and planning scheme amendments. To discuss your Victorian planning requirements, contact Eoghan on 03 9600 0500 or