Going up to downsize

MELVILLE is unlikely to follow Fremantle’s lead and boost infill targets by allowing tiny homes in backyards for now.

Melville will next week vote on a Local Housing Strategy that will instead focus on increasing its small housing stock by ramping up apartment and townhouse construction around six activity centres and transport corridors.

That will keep the pressure off suburbs, where the council hopes to mainly preserve the low-density R25 zoning.

Under the WA government’s plans for coping with Perth’s increasing population, Melville is required to make room for an extra 11,000 dwellings by 2031 and 18,000 by 2050.

But unlike neighbouring Cockburn which has large greenfield areas to accommodate new suburbs, Melville is pretty much built out already.

As a result it sent out a survey to all residents about their housing needs, which found that despite a rapidly ageing population that wanted to downsize, Melville has more McMansions of five bedrooms or more than most of the rest of Perth.

“The chief barrier to downsizing is clearly the lack of suitable housing stock in familiar, accessible locations, with many seniors considering their downsizing options to be inappropriate, unaffordable or unsuitably located,” the strategy says.

Melville is also short more than 400 residential care beds for seniors according to targets set by the federal government in 2012.

• Melville’s full of big homes, leaving few places for its ageing population to downsize. The council’s new housing strategy says apartment and townhouse living can help solve the problem.

Aussie dream

The survey found there was strong support for living near shops, restaurants and public transport, but not so work, which is probably an indication of the number of retirees in the city.

Low-maintenance homes were high on the list of priorities, as well as being close to parks and nature, though big backyards aren’t the Aussie dream they once were. There was limited support for apartment blocks above three or four storeys, but the authors of the strategy felt that could be because most of the current examples in Melville date from the 1960s and 70s and weren’t much chop.

The strategy notes that the high cost of housing is a major issue, with land around the city which was once cheap because it was swampy and had poor soil, now amongst the highest in Perth.

“Data clearly show the rate of home ownership among seniors is dropping,” the strategy says.

“Many enter retirement with few assets and will be forced to rent while on fixed incomes. As nothing can be done by local governments about the price of land, the single-most effective way for the city to improve housing affordability is to plan for higher densities around transport hubs and town centres,” the strategy says.

But officers say they will keep an eye on how Fremantle’s tiny homes policy pans out, saying they’ve already noted an up-tick in the number of granny flats being approved.

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