Missing Middle

Disclaimer: These comments are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the current opinions and policies of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.

Last year, the City of Fremantle’s Council unanimously supported an initiative supporting infill development within the City’s suburban areas.

The concept is slowly gathering momentum and is designed to facilitate the construction of so-called “tiny houses” irrespective of the residential density coding applicable to the land. For example, (notwithstanding concessions available under the Residential Design Codes such as a 5% variation, truncation allowances, etc), land zoned R25 is not able to support multiple dwellings (studio dwellings another exception here) unless the lot is larger than 700 sqm.

Using this example, it is often perfectly appropriate to have a secondary dwelling on a lot of, say, 600 sqm yet the current zoning would not allow it.

There are, as expected, some necessary rules around the policy. These include provision for a maximum of only one carbay for the new dwelling, a minimum of 60% of open space must prevail over the entire lot, 10% of the site needs to be “deep root” planted and the new dwelling itself cannot be bigger than 120 sqm. All sensible provisions and 120 sqm is larger than most of the apartments being constructed throughout the city, bigger than a classic two bedroom limestone semi and similar in size to many a local timber framed cottage.

Further planning policies are to be developed around the “tiny house” notion to include provisions handling “bulk and scale” of proposed dwellings, compatibility with the locality and streetscape, design, rights of access, sustainable building requirements and fencing matters.

Importantly, the policy helps to fill in the “missing middle” of housing typologies. We have not been building enough affordable, low rise, compact homes since the early ‘90’s (think Palmyra villas) leaving buyers to choose between a house on land or an apartment.

Landcorp’s Gen Y demonstration homes at WGV are a good example of how to help fill this gap of missing housing typologies.

With an ageing population, our propensity to stay in the family home for longer, affordability constraints and a genuine need to increase sensitively considered infill housing in order to slow urban sprawl, this initiative from the City of Fremantle makes them, in my opinion, the leader of well-conceived infill planning policies amongst comparable local governments and beats carte-blanche density increases in established urban areas.

by Hayden Groves
REIWA President
REIA Deputy President

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