Advancing Housing Affordability through Planning and Zoning Reform

A pivotal concept in the dialogue of housing affordability is "mandatory inclusionary zoning" (MIZ)

Advancing Housing Affordability through Planning and Zoning Reform

A Series on Homelessness by Fletcher Street Cottage

Fletcher Street Cottage is Byron's homeless hub, providing a safe and welcoming space for individuals and families at risk of homelessness, and those already sleeping rough, to access connection and broader support.

In the ongoing discourse surrounding housing affordability and the critical need for social and affordable housing, one factor emerges as a key player in the equation: planning and zoning policies. As discussions continue on how to address the housing crisis, the significance of these policies in shaping the supply of housing cannot be understated.

Local Control, State Influence: A Complex Balance

In the realm of urban planning, a delicate balance exists between state-level policies and the implementation of those policies at the local level. While state governments set the overarching guidelines for planning decisions, it's local governments that shoulder the responsibility of crafting and executing land use plans tailored to their specific communities.

The Modernisation Imperative

Acknowledging the need for an urgent overhaul, organisations like Shelter Tas, the peak body for housing and homelessness services in Tasmania, emphasise the necessity to modernise the planning system. They argue that recognising and prioritising social housing within this system is of paramount importance.

Exploring Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning (MIZ)

A pivotal concept in the dialogue of housing affordability is "mandatory inclusionary zoning" (MIZ). This approach mandates that residential developments incorporate a certain percentage or number of affordable housing units. This contrasts with the incentive model, where developers are encouraged to include affordable housing by offering them cost-cutting benefits.

The Constellation Project, an initiative spearheaded by the Australian Red Cross, the Centre for Social Impact, Mission Australia, and PwC Australia, offers a comprehensive insight into MIZ. Developers under MIZ obligations can either integrate affordable housing units into their projects or contribute a levy that aids affordable housing providers. The proportion of MIZ in a development may vary based on local dynamics but should be a substantial rather than token fraction.

Image: Establishing a National Framework for Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning by The Constellation Project.

Learning from Global Models

Looking at global examples, the United Kingdom stands out as a model of mature MIZ implementation. This approach has significantly boosted social and affordable housing stocks. While Australia has pockets of MIZ adoption, it lacks a consistent and comprehensive nationwide approach.

Putting Theory into Action: South Australia's Success Story

South Australia's housing journey offers an illuminating example. Between 2005 and 2015, they added nearly 5,500 affordable homes, constituting 17% of the state's housing supply. This success showcases the rapid growth achievable when executed appropriately.

MIZ's Potential Impact: A Glimpse into the Future

The Constellation Project projects that MIZ could potentially yield between 32,000 and 160,000 additional social and affordable rental homes in key metropolitan areas like Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne from 2020 to 2036. It underscores, however, that MIZ isn't a substitute for public investment but rather a tool governments should utilise.

Proposing a Way Forward: Implementing MIZ in Australia

The Constellation Project outlines a blueprint for Australian MIZ implementation. They propose that 10% of housing space developed on privately owned metropolitan land be designated for social or affordable rental housing. This can provide a foundation for increasing housing access.

Unanimous Support for MIZ

Various stakeholders, including the Mercy Foundation, advocate for MIZ implementation, suggesting quotas ranging from 10% to 30% for both private and public land. These quotas aim to diversify housing development across metropolitan areas and cater to vulnerable populations and essential workers.

The Government's Role in Shaping MIZ

While MIZ implementation largely falls under state, territory, and local jurisdiction, the Australian Government has a role to play in establishing a consistent national approach. Under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA), state and territory governments are encouraged to incorporate planning and zoning reform initiatives, including inclusionary zoning, into their housing strategies.

A Call for Clarity and Collaboration

However, some voices, like Q Shelter, emphasise the necessity for clearer guidelines in the NHHA regarding the mandate of inclusionary zoning. Moreover, entities like the City of Port Phillip in Melbourne propose collaboration between the Australian Government and states to devise uniform approaches for both MIZ and "value sharing" mechanisms to bolster social and affordable housing delivery.

The debate around housing affordability is multifaceted, but the importance of planning and zoning reform is undeniable. Mandatory inclusionary zoning presents a promising strategy to alleviate the housing crisis by obligating developers to contribute to social and affordable housing stocks. As local, state, and national governments grapple with the challenge, collaboration and a comprehensive approach are crucial to ensure affordable housing becomes a reality for all.


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