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  • Samantha Reece

Victoria Rolls Out New Apartment Rules

Melbourne’s lockdowns has amplified concerns about urban design flaws in the inner-city, with new planning rules being enacted to hold apartment developers to higher standards.

The new planning rules will aim to improve liveability for apartment dwellers.

The new standards will mean that any apartment building with more than ten residences must provide communal space while apartment buildings five storeys or higher will be required to avoid “wind tunnelling” through sensitive design.

They will also eliminate underused, windswept balconies on buildings taller than 40 metres, providing clearer design flexibility so these homes can have more usable space inside the apartment, like winter gardens.

Apartments will also have to provide more natural light, with balconies being encouraged to be designed in order to minimise overshadowing for apartments below.

Planning minister Richard Wynne said the changes will ensure that Melbourne remains one of the world’s most liveable cities.

“As Victoria continues to grow, these standards will be crucial to ensure that our suburbs, towns and urban areas have high density living that is designed well, with liveability and wellbeing at the heart of its design.

“These changes are about ensuring that residents of apartment buildings—both tenants and owner-occupiers—get the full benefits of their community and their lifestyle is improved by clever design choices,” Wynne said.

Working from home has remained a constant state-wide over the last twelve months, with Victorian premier Daniel Andrews predicting offices are unlikely to return to their full capacity as more workers chase flexibility.

According to the latest survey of commercial landlords by the Property Council, more two-thirds of Melbourne CBD office towers were remained empty at the end of January.

“People are spending more time in their homes and are using their apartments as places of work,” Wynne said.

“Having green space and communal areas is vital to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of apartment residents.”

Melbourne’s high-density inner-city apartment market has struggled throughout the pandemic with many opting for post-lockdown lifestyle changes.

The exodus, driven by the “flexible workplace”, has seen demand in outer suburban and regional locations—offering affordability, liveability, space and greater value for money.

“Urban design is a critical factor in helping people and cities adjust to crises like the Covid one,” RMIT professor Michael Buxton said.

“In European cities that are much denser than the outer suburbs of Melbourne, people seem to be coping a lot better, because they are living in high-amenity environments.”

The roll out of the new apartment standards follows Wynne’s decision in January to ban the use of certain external wall cladding products in the construction of multi-storey buildings.

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