We expressed our strong opinion that the proposed immediate ban on townhouses and other forms of multiple dwellings from Brisbane’s low density residential areas:
- Would fail the test for making a TLPI as it:
- Does not meet the Significant Risk Test;
- Does not warrant a more Urgent Response than the standard amendment process, given that the current provisions have been in effect and largely operating successfully since City Plan 2000; and
- Has the potential to adversely affect State interests;
- Would circumvent due process and cut the community out of the process and would actually remove the ability for any resident in support of multiple dwellings to be able to comment on the change
- Would result in other serious adverse social impacts on the City by removing an important housing type which meets the needs of a significant portion of the market, both from a financial and locational perspective and
- Would be a poor planning outcome for the community and an adverse planning change.
Failure to meet the tests to make a TLPI
In our opinion, a TLPI should not be made because it fails to meet the three test sets out in section 23 of the Planning Act 2016, including:
- There is not a significant risk of serious adverse cultural, economic, environmental or social conditions happening in the local government area to warrant an immediate and non-consulted ban. Council’s reliance on ‘adverse social impact’ is founded in a non-statutory, public-relations exercise including gaming technology, which was far from thorough and sought to extract feedback on broad concepts rather than specific topics such as a ban of this nature. Not only is there no significant risk, in fact to the contrary, the proposed ban is likely to result in a significant risk of serious adverse economic, environmental and social conditions happening in Brisbane. In our opinion, it will erode housing choice and affordability, locking people out of the Brisbane residential housing market on financial grounds, including lower income families, single parent households and key workers. It will also exacerbate urban sprawl by removing a more compact form of urban living from the available housing typologies within Brisbane’s low density suburbs. It is a well established planning principle that urban sprawl is undesirable from an economic, social and environmental perspective; and
- The time involved in following due process to make a planning scheme amendment would not increase any risk. The existing City Plan already has Codes which deal with issues of scale, built form and the contextual relationship of development proposals. These applications are already publicly notified, with the opportunity for the community to have their say. Rather, the proposed ban will, in our opinion, introduce the significant risk that due process is being circumvented for non-planning, and potentially political reasons, without proper consideration and consultation with the community; and
- Making a TLPI of this nature would adversely affect State interests, being housing supply, particularly in the form of ‘missing middle’ housing, at a range of price points. Groups of duplexes, triplexes and row houses (also known as townhouses) contributes significantly to the ‘missing middle’ in Brisbane, yet this alternative housing form will be stripped out of the market.
Circumventing due process without public notification
Actioning the proposed ban via a TLPI is extraordinarily concerning, as it is attempting to circumvent due process for an ordinary issue of planning and housing policy and certainly not an issue displaying significant risk or potential harm. This is an issue that requires careful consideration and community consultation, consistent with any proposed planning scheme amendment.
The community should not be cut out of the planning process. Indeed, any resident who would support multiple dwellings have been denied any ability to comment on this change. The TLPI process should not be able to be abused for non-serious and non-threatening matters of local politics.
Poor planning outcome for brisbane
The intent of both the proposed major amendment to the City Plan currently under State interest check and the proposed TLPI appears to be to create exclusive areas all over Brisbane protected solely for single family dwellings, with no housing choice or diversity.
Already, 3000m2 sites for multiple dwellings and retirement facilities are the only alternative housing forms to single family dwellings (through Impact assessment) in Brisbane’s low density areas. All other alternate housing forms to a single family dwelling, including a second household living in a granny flat / Fonzie flat, ‘invisible density’ such as a duplex consistent with the form of a traditional house, as well as triplexes, row housing and smaller groups of townhouses are already effectively ‘banned’ in low density areas of Brisbane, through the intent of the Zone. This proposed ban will simply strip out all and any multiple dwelling as an alternative form of low density living.
We strongly believe there are many benefits to having low density multiple dwellings as an alternative and often more affordable housing form in Brisbane’s low density suburbs. There are benefits to downsizers looking for an alternative lower maintenance housing product in the years between retirement and a retirement village, and to our children (the millennials) hoping to be able to afford to rent or buy a home in the neighbourhood they’ve grown up in.
The exclusion of all multiple dwelling housing typologies from low density residential zoned land in Brisbane will see a transition of currently accessible, inclusive communities into suburbs that are only accessible for residents of a certain economic demographic, resulting in social exclusion across our city.
We believe the real risk to the Brisbane community arising from the proposed multiple dwelling ban is:
(a) Eroding housing choice and affordability across the clear majority of Brisbane’s residential land, particularly in terms of missing middle housing forms at a range of price brackets;
(b) Bringing into force an immediate change to planning rules without proper process or community consultation, resembling an abuse of process;
(c) Depriving land owners of their rights in terms of seeking compensation, which is not available for the period in which a TLPI is in force; and
(d) Pandering to what may well be a vocal minority who are acting in their own self interests to preserve their expensive and exclusive suburbs from new development.
This will be a poor planning outcome, not properly considered or debated in the wider community. In our opinion, planning policy would be better placed moving in the opposite direction, by Council actually facilitating the discussion with the community to respond to the need to provide housing choice, the desire to provide healthy, walkable neighbourhoods, rich in real character and protecting the ability to deliver housing at a range of price brackets to meet community needs.
On face value, the notion of a TLPI is nothing more than a political stunt. We strongly believe that the Minister responsible for promoting good planning outcomes and good planning processes in Queensland, should not allow this TLPI to proceed.
We strongly urged the Minister to reject Brisbane City Council’s proposed TLPI outright.
Wolter Consulting Group letter to the Honourable Cameron Dick, Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning objecting to the proposed immediate ban