19 Sep Draft Housing Strategy for Mornington Peninsula
The Mornington Peninsula Shire have released a draft Housing and Settlement Strategy for public comment. Further details and links to the documents can be found here.
The provision of a housing strategy represents a maturing of planning policy within the municipality. It is this sophistication in planning policy that I have been anticipating for some time. It seeks to provide additional direction and control to the areas in particular that are not already covered by additional planning controls such as Design and Development Overlays.
The focus for the document is to provide for future housing growth while protecting the values of the Mornington Peninsula. It follows the directions in the Localised Planning Statement for Mornington Peninsula that the State government introduced into State policy in 2014. Once the housing strategy is finalised and endorsed by the Council it will be used as the basis to drive planning scheme amendments and planning decisions on housing in the future.
The southern region of Melbourne is expected to experience high housing demand, based on anticipated population growth. This population growth is likely to lead to rising demand for residential housing on the Mornington Peninsula, due in significant part to the attractive nature of the region as well as improved road network. If left unchecked, this housing demand could substantially change the peninsula. On this basis the Housing and Settlement Strategy has been developed to manage and direct this potential growth.
The Housing and Settlement Strategy firstly provides contextual information for the region, including a review of current planning controls and current demographic information. It then seeks to address the issues of housing for the future by looking at the following areas:
- Project housing demand and potential supply
- The distribution of future housing growth
- Protecting neighbourhood character
- The future of land in the Low Density Residential Zone
- Social housing and housing affordability
Housing Demand and Supply
The first thing that is tackled is how to determine an appropriate housing demand. Two forecast models have been analysed and the lower rate that is predicting a falling growth rate and therefore lower housing demand is considered to be the preferred model. The Shire feels that this lower demand better represents the need to protect the character and value of the area and supports the State policy that the peninsula will have some moderate and generally low levels of housing growth.
In determining potential housing supply for the area the Council has had to make a number of assumptions to account for the many variables that can influence potential supply. While some of the existing Design and Development Overlay controls provide clear direction on subdivision and therefore potential yield, many areas are not covered and therefore a reasonable estimate needs to be made. Due to issues of policy, timeframe and economic viability, non-residential areas (including activity centres and rural areas) have been excluded from the calculations at this stage. They have also not included the potential yield from some proposed “higher density” areas adjacent to major activity centres due to the uncertainty regarding density and timing at this stage. This would be subject to future work through town centre structure plans.
The Council is proposing a new control over many areas that currently have no DDO. This control will apply a minimum site/lot area of 450sqm per dwelling. Areas close to the activity centres of major townships are also being recognised with two potential controls:
Town Centre Residential
1 dwelling per 80-150sqm of site area
Mandatory height limit of 3 storeys
1 dwelling per 300sqm
This will constrain much of the development in the peninsula, and see a significant shift from some of the current types of developments being approved to a more low scale of development. The Council have predicted that with these new controls there will still be sufficient housing supply to exceed both housing demand models. The unspoken conclusion seems to be that as these proposed development constraints will provide a sufficient supply for the next 15 years, they are the appropriate controls for the region. I would like to see more research and investigation into potential planning controls than this so that we can have confidence that they are well thought out and justified.
Distribution of Housing Growth
This section acknowledges that previous state government advice on Housing Strategies is that the focus should be looking at the overall supply and demand at a municipal level, rather than seeking to balance supply and demand in particular locations. Regardless the Council feels that there is established policy support for the hierarchy of settlements on the Mornington Peninsula. This position is reinforced by the strategies and directions contained within the Localised Planning Statement. Therefore, this section briefly seeks to reinforce the direction that the distribution of future growth is not expected to change the existing hierarchy of settlements, with the greatest increases within proximity to the major activity centres of Mornington, Rosebud and Hastings.
The continuing use of Design and Development Overlays (or other equivalent local planning controls) with mandatory design requirements is deemed to be integral to housing in the municipality.
The recent change to the height controls of the General Residential Zone, to include a 11m height limit, has been noted as a significant concern for the municipality that may lead to intrusive and out of character development. They postulate that the increased height will likely lead to larger dwellings, but not increase the number of dwellings. It is certainly logical that the increased height provision will allow for the loss of ground floor area, due to the mandatory minimum garden area requirements, to made up for within a taller building. However, the further thought that this will lead to a reduction in housing diversity or development of smaller dwellings is a rather long bow to draw. On this basis the conclusion is that “retaining” a two-storey height limit, combined with the minimum garden area requirements is more likely to promote a wider range of housing options.
While there is undoubtedly some policy context for a 2 storey height limit, given the character of many of the areas as well as the historical 2 storey height controls throughout much of the municipality, the consideration that reducing height limit will promote a wider range of housing options is not necessarily the case. Rather I would argue it is a tool to maintain the “status quo”.
Future of Low Density Residential Zone
On the edge of many of the larger townships low density and rural residential development has formed. These areas provide a transition from the town to the rural areas and assist in protecting landscape and environmental values. It is considered that these established low density areas have value and function and should not be made available for more intensive development now that sewerage and drainage are now available in some areas.
There are also some undeveloped low density land and the future of this land needs to be carefully considered as in some cases it represents the only large area of undeveloped residential land within the Urban Growth Boundary. Opening these areas to more intensive development (such as retirement village style developments) will need to be carefully considered as to the range of impacts that may occur and the net community benefit. A number of areas that are considered to have potential have been identified and will need to be reviewed and investigated further.
Housing Affordability and Social Housing
The Council acknowledges the importance of housing affordability as a State policy issue. Many of the factors that influence the affordability of housing are beyond the control of individual Councils and they aren’t convinced that “releasing” more land on the Mornington Peninsula is a solution to the problem. They argue that it is not necessary from a supply point of view and will likely promote land speculation rather than having any long term benefit on housing affordability.
Housing for vulnerable groups and people already on the Mornington Peninsula is however an area that the Council does feel it has a role. Recent research has indicated that an additional 400 dwellings for social housing will be required on the peninsula by 2030. There are some options being investigated to increase the provision of social housing, but the details are not being discussed at this time.
The purpose of the Housing and Settlement Strategy is to look beyond the potential population and housing growth trends and to determine the appropriate policy directions for the Peninsula. This document is intended to provide the basis for planning direction for the future and has been driven in response to the Localised Planning Statement prepared by the State government for the Mornington Peninsula.
In summary the Housing and Settlement Strategy is saying that while it is important to provide some new housing, this should be in a moderated and limited way to ensure the protection of the character and values of the Peninsula. This follows on from the directions within the Localised Planning Statement that demonstrates that the Peninsula is a distinct area from metropolitan Melbourne and that the region will not accommodate major population growth.
I agree with the broad conclusions set out in the Strategy. The Mornington Peninsula is an area that should be considered distinct from Melbourne with regards to housing growth and supply. It is an area of unique character which will need to be protected with additional planning policy, particularly in the areas that are not covered by Overlays currently. However, I feel that the document has jumped too quickly to some quite constraining development controls (minimum lot size of 450sqm per dwelling and 2 storey height limit) without sufficient justification or analysis. This Housing and Settlement Strategy represents only the start of the strategic journey with much further work required to be done to develop robust and justifiable planning scheme amendments.