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Canberra's first plan was created in 1913

Griffin planned for a more compact urban form of development for 25,000 to 75,000 residents around the parliamentary triangle and adjoining suburbs, with higher density and trams along transport corridors.

Subsequent planning changes by government officials re-envisioned the plan as a much more low density garden city with mainly detached houses on large blocks and with wide street verges to accommodate trees. The former National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) established the Y plan in 1972, setting our hierarchical planning form based around town centres (like Civic), group centres (like Dickson) and local shopping centres (like Ainslie). At that stage, most residents lived in single detached houses.


Alternatives to single residential housing were originally provided by the federal government, which developed hostels for newly arrived public servants and public housing schemes (like the recently demolished Cooyong and Bega flats), often placed next to shopping centres.

Far greater population growth, demographic diversity and employment patterns have evolved than was envisaged by the original planners.



Planning policies for small scale residential redevelopment (draft for discussion released by the ACT Government in 1987) sought, among several objectives, to “encourage the consolidation of the urban area by facilitating the introduction of additional dwellings into the existing residential areas and to encourage a wider choice of housing”. It sought to move away from zoning to a more strategic planning approach.


In the past 30 years, there have been various planning policy changes that sought to consolidate and introduce additional dwellings into existing residential areas, and encourage additional housing choice. However, they have not kept up with growing demand for diversity and proximity to services and facilities.


The NCDC oversaw many public housing infill projects like Ainslie’s Aubrey Tow Court and the Suttor Street development.

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There is greater environmental awareness and concern about climate change and protection of Canberra's undeveloped hills and ridges.

Canberra continues to grow outwards with new suburbs in Gungahlin, Molonglo and soon West Belconnen that are more dense than older suburbs. These newer developments are heavily reliant on private cars for transport to work and commercial facilities.

The NCDC engaged interstate architects to develop medium density schemes, like Harry Seidler’s Lakeview development in Yarralumla.


Many ageing baby-boomers are living in under-utilised houses after their children leave home. They do not want to move into an apartment, but are unable to find alternative, more compact accommodation in their established neighbourhoods. Some of the best examples of this more compact form of housing were developed in the 1960’s through to the early 1980’s, such as the separately titled townhouses developed in Holder the early 1980’s.

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Community housing schemes were developed in the 1970's (like Urambi Village, Kambah and Wyablena Grove, Cook).