Melbourne’s “dog box” apartments will be targeted by new design rules banning windowless bedrooms and living areas, but the Andrews government has chosen not to introduce minimum dwelling sizes.
The draft design standards have been released alongside research showing 60 per cent of apartments recently constructed in Melbourne were of low quality.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne said some of the city’s high-rise units were not fit to live in and failed to provide adequate natural light, fresh air and storage.
“Effectively for some of the developments around the city I think it was really a race to the bottom,” Mr Wynne said.
“The reforms are plugging the hole in the planning rules which allowed dog boxes to be built, because we want future apartments to be constructed for long-term living.”
For the first time, all bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and studies will require windows that are visible from all points in a room.
New apartments will be required to have between six to 10 cubic metres of extra storage space. This reform was encouraged by the investigation into the fire at Docklands’ Lacrosse building that revealed residents were storing their possessions in fire hydrant cupboards and on balconies, a practice that helped fuel the blaze.
New open space standards for each apartment of up to 12 square metres are expected to result in more balconies, communal space, courtyards and parks in the inner city.
The rules also include provisions to reduce noise travelling into apartments (mechanical plants cannot be next to bedrooms), improve cross-ventilation of high-rise towers and discourage narrow living rooms with low ceilings.
But there is nothing in the new rules to prevent developers filling their towers with tiny apartments.
It had been speculated that Melbourne would follow in the footsteps of other major international cities by introducing minimum apartment sizes.
In Sydney, one-bedrooms units must be at least 50 square metres, two-bedroom apartments at least 70 square metres and three-bedrooms at least 90 square metres.
But the introduction of similar rules in Melbourne was fiercely opposed by property groups, who warned an increase of even five square metres could add up to $45,000 to the price of an apartment.
Mr Wynne said it was possible to have smaller apartments “as long as they were very well designed”.
The standards will be mandatory, unless the council or planning minister approves an alternative design.
Community and stakeholder consultation on the draft standards will continue until September 16.