Take approvals off council

A centralised decision-making body to take planning decisions out of the hands of councils is needed, says Radley de Silva. Without it, the problem of delays affecting housing affordability and the associated costs will worsen.
A centralised decision-making body to take planning decisions out of the hands of councils is needed, says Radley de Silva. Without it, the problem of delays affecting housing affordability and the associated costs will worsen.

As we have known for some time, the population of Victoria is growing faster than any other state in Australia.

That fact means a lot of things, but among the most obvious is the increased need to deliver housing for these new residents—and in a state that already faces immense pressure on the issue of housing affordability.

Master Builders supports Infrastructure Victoria’s push for the state government to take the lead in encouraging higher-density development in Melbourne’s suburbs.

We strongly support ‘densification’ where it makes good economic sense and encourages the enrichment of already-established neighbourhoods and communities.

The approvals process is far too slow and disabled by conflicting interests to be efficient in rendering smart and timely decisions on applications.

Council members empowered to review applications and make decisions are beholden to the opinions of their local constituents, who seldom see the benefit of having more people living around them.

It’s unlikely that local constituents will be able to easily take the broader view that greater density will sustain economic vitality and live-ability, and it is up to local and state government to facilitate understanding of these issues.

We need a centralised decision-making body to take planning decisions out of the hands of councils; without it, our rapid population increase will only increase the number of planning applications and worsen the problem of delays affecting housing affordability and the costs associated with building.

Delays and inconsistencies cost both homeowners and builders time and money.

This is an opportunity to fix a flawed system—one that currently enables councils to create separate and inconsistent planning schemes, and that has been proven not to work.

We are encouraged by the government’s recent proposal to include simple planning applications into VicSmart, such as secondary dwellings, which are an affordable option for single-person households.

However, we consider that is should go further, and that the codified VicSmart process should be extended to include sub-divisions and multi-unit residences to overcome some of the uncertainty, costs and delays being experienced.

It becomes more urgent every day to provide not just homes, but aged care facilities, schools and transportation infrastructure we will need to accommodate the estimated 8 million residents by 2051.

Radley de Silva is the CEO of the Master Builders Association of Victoria www.mbav.com.au