The proposal – outlined in Infrastructure Victoria's 30-year draft strategy – would mean that prized areas such as Glen Waverley, McKinnon or Camberwell could soon come under growing pressure for greater development, paving the way for fierce battles with residents keen to protect their neighbourhoods.
Leafy Eastern suburbs of Melbourne Photo: Craig Abraham
"I exploded when I saw that proposal," said Jack Roach, from the Boroondara Residents Action Group. "Established suburbs don't want that. It's our lifestyle, our property, and we'll furiously oppose any overdevelopment in the area."
However, Infrastructure Victoria argues that "there is much greater opportunity" to amend planning schemes to create more housing in suburbs that already have good transport, schools and services.
Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne says there are still "significant opportunities" for more high-quality housing in targeted areas to better manage Melbourne's rapidly growing population.
Such changes should be made over the next five years, the agency says, with the government focusing initially on neighbourhoods near train stations along the Lilydale, Glen Waverley, Sandringham, Frankston and Pakenham lines "as these are expected to experience fewer capacity constraints over the next 30 years".
"No one wants a Victoria choked by congestion. No one wants a Victoria where the most vulnerable people don't have access to housing. No one wants a Victoria where basic but essential services are out of reach to entire parts of the state. Yet that's what we could have 30 years from today if there isn't action now," the draft strategy says.
The warning comes weeks before the government unveils a rebooted Plan Melbourne strategy, which recommends that established areas provide 70 per cent of new housing, limiting growth on the urban fringe to 30 per cent.. The government is also preparing to announce the findings of a review into the former Coalition government's rezoning process, which locked out large parts of suburbia from development.
Asked about Infrastructure Victoria's proposal, Planning Minister Richard Wynne said that "the middle-ring suburbs are pulling their weight" but there are still "significant opportunities" for more high-quality housing in targeted areas to better manage Melbourne's rapidly growing population.
"I think you've got to change the conversation: it's not about attacking the amenity that people enjoy in the established suburbs, it's about demonstrating to people that there is a way to do both," he said.
Melbourne University professor of urban planning Carolyn Whitzman said focusing growth in suburbs with good infrastructure was a no-brainer, but such changes would pose political challenges for the government.
"It makes sense from any perspective other than a political perspective," she said.
Research by RMIT academics recently found that 1 million more homes could be squeezed into Melbourne's current boundaries by 2050 – thereby reducing urban sprawl – but this would require government intervention to ensure the right type of housing was built in the right type of areas.
"You don't have to go pulling down all our heritage housing or all our strip shops to reach the goal," said RMIT professor Michael Buxton. "There's plenty of land, but what it really takes is for the government to do more than it is doing."