Whilst council plods on with its long awaited structure plans, urban design frameworks and god knows what else it hasn’t achieved as yet, the most crucial element in both council’s and we presume the state’s planning is what COVID has produced in terms of migration slow down, oversupply of apartments, businesses closing, and rising house prices for detached dwellings. In short, the boom period for many individuals is well and truly over.

Given these factors, it becomes even more important that council’s strategic planning is fully cognisant of what lies ahead and what has been happening in the past 3 to 5 years. The oversupply of apartments is not something new – it was already evident in 2017. The rising costs of houses means that less and less can afford them, despite mortgage rates being at an all time low. Renters are also leaving in droves – often returning to stay with parents. And given the absence of overseas students, and migration figures to rival our lowest numbers since 1946, any strategic planning simply has to factor all this in.

We have had Victoria in Future 2019 predicting population growth that is now in tatters. The impact on housing supply and demand therefore must be reassessed and planned for accordingly.  Council continues to argue that things will return to ‘normal’. But when? In 3 years time, in five years, or never? Besides, structure plans are not meant to be created and then left hanging in the wind for decades. They are supposed to be ‘live’ documents that are continuously reviewed and reworked. So given all the above negatives, why is council still demanding 12 storey apartment complexes in Carnegie? Or even higher along Nepean Highway? Do we really need all this high rise when apartments are what is suffering the most?

All of the above makes it absolutely crucial that any Housing Strategy does not ignore these events. Simply looking at ‘capacity’ as we were told with the first version of the Built Form Frameworks for Bentleigh East, Caulfield North and Caulfield South, is in our view a meaningless exercise. Capacity does not equate with need. It simply says, ‘yes, a 20 storey building can go here’. It doesn’t answer the crucial question of whether or not we need 20 storey buildings to cater for population growth over the next 15 years. Nor does it tell us whether existing infrastructure can cope, nor how much it will cost to introduce the required infrastructure.

We have extracted two pages from a 2020 report from the National Housing Finance & Investment Company  which is worth a read. The full document is found at: https://www.nhfic.gov.au/media/1621/nhfic_state-of-the-nations-housing-report_accessible-updated.pdf

Please take a close look at their projections and the arguments upon which these are built.