The build-to-rent high-rise towers proposed for the Marvel Stadium precinct could become high risk ghettos for short-stays.
It is disappointing that Lord Mayor Sally Capp has been quoted as supporting the 28- and 30-storey developments on a dormant La Trobe St site – without any safeguards in place to prevent a short-stay takeover.
If approved by Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, we could have a good proportion of nearly 700 apartments thrown onto the grossly under-regulated short-stay market.
The Lord Mayor harbours the forlorn hope that the development will bring “much-needed diversity” to the housing mix in Melbourne.
There is little chance of diversity Lord Mayor; this development will be a magnet for the worst type of short-stay opportunists – unless you or the Minister take action to prevent this otherwise certain eventuality.
Cr Capp admitted that the council knew “renters in Melbourne are among the most stressed cohort within our population”. And yet this cohort will be lumbered with all the high-risk and anti-social behaviour associated with living adjacent to short-stays.
Without proper regulation, imagine the utter chaos of two new short-stay dominated towers with interstate visitors arriving from COVID hotspots around Australia. We can suggest an apt name for the new council-sanctioned project: COVID-Central.
Let’s talk about planning schemes
Local planning schemes control the use, development and protection of a particular area; these came into being long before high-rise residential developments overtook Melbourne and surrounding suburbs.
It’s time for an overhaul. The National Construction Code NCC has no provision for short-stays in Class 2 buildings. The NCC is managed by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB). In 2018 the ABCB set out to “discuss and seek feedback on the effectiveness of the voluntary Industry Code of Conduct” – referring to the Holiday Rental Code of Conduct developed by short-stay operators in Docklands.
The ABCB discussion paper The NCC and short-term accommodation in apartment buildings, included these definitions: “In simple terms, Class 2 buildings are apartment buildings. They are typically multi-unit residential buildings where people live above and below each other.”
“In simple terms, Class 3 buildings are a common place of long term or transient living for a number of unrelated people.” This ABCB discussion paper exposed the myopia of the review process, skewed by placing commercial interests above resident safety.
For example, take fire safety. Class 3 buildings have a range of safeguards to deal with the transient nature of guests who are not aware of fire exits or where fire equipment is located, plus management protocols for at-risk residents such those with health or mobility issues.
While the ABCB review readily identified the fire risks of having short-stays in Class 2 buildings, one of the solutions it canvassed was to “include additional fire safety features in Class 2 buildings”. Revealing the influence of the almighty dollar, the ABCB review offered this startling value judgement: “A disadvantage of this option is costs for owners of short-term accommodation.”
Moving along to the nexus between “bylaws”, Consumer Affairs and Planning. Unlike NSW body corporates, Victorian owners’ corporations cannot make rules or bylaws about the use of lots because the OC Act 2006 - according to Justice Riordan - was not written in “clear and unambiguous language”.
The craziest thing is that the state government excluded “Section 8 – Rules of the Owners’ Corporation” from its review of the OC Act – with the indolent excuse that the components needed to be addressed in the context of the applicable planning schemes!
It is time for an overhaul, not for sweeping the issues under the carpet. We need to have Planning and Consumer Affairs at the same table to get meaningful change.
When restrictions are lifted, and we return to some semblance of normality – whatever that is –we will be emerging into a new landscape – one created by COVID.
How we live and work could be vastly different from what we have known in the past, and we must use the opportunity presented to us to see this happens and we get it right.
The new norm for accommodation in Melbourne must include proper provision for everyone: students; those needing social housing or medium-priced housing; owner occupiers, long-term tenants; business visitors and tourists.
When the pandemic is under control and we start to move into this new landscape please can the city planners create a vision that will accommodate all those who live, work and play here so we once again can reclaim the title of the most liveable city in the world?
Let’s have proper regulations established to prevent short-stay ghettos before the Marvel Stadium towers disaster is foisted upon us. Now is the time to act.
We need to start afresh with input from all stakeholders – there will never be a better opportunity do it.
Stop short-stays? There’s an app for that!
If you are tired of seeing key safes all over the city, there is an app that can make them disappear, sometimes quite quickly!
Absentee short stay operators often leave apartment keys in key-safes attached to parking signs, bike racks or other council property – which, unsurprisingly, is illegal.
To witness magic in action, download the Snap Send Solve app for Android or Apple. This is an app that lets you notify the council of issues in your community.
Take a picture of the offending key-safe that you found attached to council property and submit the image on the spot via the app under the heading of “Road Signage”, for example.
The app will include the exact location, saving you the trouble of describing it. It only takes a few seconds to submit a report and the council will send the bolt-cutter crew in due course, possibly the next day.
Thanks to the reader who sent in this tip! Keep those texts and emails coming in!
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