FREMANTLE councillor Rachel Pemberton has launched her bid to open up Fremantle to ‘mini-block’ subdivisions (“Think small,” Herald, October 12, 2013).
This week her colleagues voted to initiate a planning scheme amendment which would allow developments to breach current R-Code densities if they satisfy 12 conditions. Homes would have to be no bigger than 120 square metres, which Cr Pemberton says opens up the suburbs to more diverse and affordable housing.
“Not everyone want to live in a large home, but there is limited options for how and where you can build new modest-size homes,” Cr Pemberton told the Herald prior to Wednesday’s meeting.
The overall development would also need a minimum of 60 per cent open space, and 10 per cent of that has to be set aside strictly for trees in an effort to keep suburbs cooler.
A report attached to the item claims the WA Planning Commission already has the power to approve strata lot subdivisions of the mini-blocks the plan would create, however the council says it would only apply where a dwelling has already been built and vacant land subdivisions would be outlawed.
Cr Pemberton says the current planning scheme encourages portsiders to squeeze the biggest McMansions they can onto their land, and Australia already has some of the biggest and most unsustainable houses in the world.
The average Aussie home has gone from 162 sqm in 1984 to 241 sqm in 2013.
“It is no coincidence that as our homes have gotten larger, housing costs have skyrocketed. And it’s not just the cost of buying or renting a home; larger homes have higher running costs as well.
“Diverse housing means a diverse community—all the people who make Freo the cosmopolitan place it is—and the people we need to ensure economic revitalisation and new jobs in the city.”
But there is a kicker. Buried in the 3500-word report, which is heavy on the wonders of pint-sized homes, is a single line acknowledging it will usher in greater density across Fremantle. Coupled with that, there’s a squeeze on parking, with just one bay per household and no visitor parking unless its a bigger development.
But Cr Pemberton says it can be achieved without stomping on Fremantle’s character.
“This amendment will allow a return to the more traditional housing and streetscapes of Fremantle—just think of the terrace houses in South Fremantle, or the little workers cottages in White Gum Valley,” she said.
Staffers will develop a set of planning provisions which will head back to council at a later date, before going out to public comment and then on to the WAPC for consideration.
by BRENDAN FOSTER