A Fremantle Perspective on Housing Diversity and Affordability
November 2, 2015 6 Comments
Last week I also spoke at the National Housing Conference 2015 and gave a presentation entitled: A Fremantle Perspective on Housing Diversity and Affordability.
There are still major housing affordability issues in Australia with WA been one of the worst states in recent times and this is despite record low interest rates making mortgages cheaper.
The City of Fremantle is committed to doing its bit to encourage and enable more affordable housing in and around Fremantle. By affordable housing the City of Fremantle policy refers to housing where people on low or moderate incomes pay no more than 30% of gross household income on rental or mortgage payments. This is distinct from social housing which is predominately defined as public housing provided for people who register with the Housing Authority for housing assistance. Affordable housing is generally people who are working, have applied for public housing but do not qualify yet suffer housing stress.
So here are some of the ways the I see the City of Fremantle playing a role ensuring housing in Fremantle is both affordable and available to a wider range of people:
- Role as Planning Authority
By using our planning scheme to enable both higher density developments in key locations we can enable more diverse and affordable housing. We recently did this is in a couple of ways:
One, the City of Fremantle requires a minimum 10% affordable housing to be provided in major residential developments in central Fremantle if those developments wanted the discretionary extra height in the planning scheme as available under Amendment 49.
Two, the City of Fremantle mandated diverse apartment sizes in these new central Fremantle developments (developments with 10 or more dwelling units) so that we wouldn’t only get large, luxury apartment that weren’t affordable to most. This means that at least 25% of units must be less than 60m2 and no more than 40% can be above 125m2. Good to see this come to reality on projects like the 11 Queen Victoria street and the DHA project in the East End (aka the Woolstores Precinct).
Three, the City of Fremantle can also enable a more diverse range of dwellings to be built in our suburbs as we did with the award winning small dwellings scheme amendment. This is important as the average size of new houses in Australia has risen substantially over recent decades:
- 1961: 110m2 (ave. occupancy 4.1)
- 1985: 188m2 (ave. occupancy 3.1)
- 2015: 230m2 (ave. occupancy 2.6)
This scheme amendment means that small ancillary houses (eg 55m2 for under for a block of 450m2 or over) could be built without planning approval subject to meeting certain design requirements. Only a building license is required if it meets key criteria.
Fremantle was the first local authority in WA to integrate into planning scheme and thousands properties throughout Fremantle could develop this form of affordable housing if they wanted to.
- Role as Collaborator with State and Commonwealth Governments and not for profit housing providers
One of the key things the City of Fremantle can do is collaborate with organisations whose core business is delivering affordable housing. For example the recent collaboration with Access Housing, and Landcorp to construct 12 affordable rental dwellings within the new WGV residential development in White Gum Valley. Called SHAC (Sustainable Housing for Artists and Creatives) this will provide affordable housing for artists who work in Fremantle but have been progressively priced out of the Freo’s housing market.
In the same WGV estate is the Gen Y Housing project. The Gen Y Demonstration Housing competition put together by Landcorp invited young West Australian architects to submit an ‘idea’ which encapsulated the Gen Y lifestyle and living requirements. Participants were asked to design a flexible, cost effective and sustainable dwelling for the next generation of home owners. David Barr Architects from Fremantle won the competition and construction of this project is planned for 2016.
Another key project in recent years is the 58 affordable units completed as part of the Fort Knox/Dalgety Wool Store/Heirloom redevelopment on Beach St, Fremantle. This included social housing and shared equity units already completed.
I am excited about future affordable housing projects on the cards as part of the Holland Street redevelopment (which ran a student design competition) and Burt Street as part of a MOU with the City of Fremantle redevelopment the Housing Authority will be doing in the next couple of years.
- Putting our money where our mouth is as a Council.
The Fremantle Council signed off on a policy that agreed to use some City of Fremantle land holdings to provide affordable housing developments. The first of these is the development on the former City of Fremantle carpark on the corner Bannister and Pakenham Streets. This development by Yolk that will provide four key worker housing units as part of the development. We got a little less for the land to get this outcome but well worth it in my view. The Fremantle Council is looking at a similar approach with City of Fremantle owned land on Quarry Street and some others.
- Supporting innovate affordable housing solutions
The final role the City of Fremantle can play is through supporting innovation (or in some cases simply getting out of the way).
The first example of this is the emerging Tiny House movement that is generating some excitement in Fremantle and beyond. Amy and her family live in a 17m2 (25m2 including mezzanine) tiny house in Fremantle! One option we are looking at is how we can enable more of these in Fremantle and even a tiny house park with a range tiny houses.
The other innovation I am especially excited about is doing the first terminating cooperative development in WA in 40 years. Otherwise known as Bangruppen – a form of cooperative housing – it has the potential to substantially reduce the cost of housing. It is estimated that these cooperatives overseas can save on up to 30% on the cost of housing in part because there is no developers profit. This process will need to be assisted by the City of Fremantle or another facilatator to bring people with similar housing requirements together to design the development. I hope we can do this at the soon to be departed Fremantle Council Depot site on Knutsford Strret or another site one like it. Not only does it bring costs down and ensure the design suits the needs of future residents but it also build social capital as everyone in the building knows each other before they even move it creating a strong sense of community in an area.
Finally we are doing some research with AUDRiC on other housing typologies we could enable in Fremantle to bring down prices and increase diversity.
If you have managed to read this far then I hope you get the sense there is no ONE silver bullet to fix the housing affordability challenges we face but I think the range of projects and innovations we are working on in Fremantle will make a dent and keep Freo a diverse and inclusive city.
I’d love to hear other ideas too.
To see the Fremantle Council affordable housing policy in full it can be found at: