We’d like to see:

  • A review of the planning regime with a particular focus on plot ratios and separate titling for dual occupancies, allowances for attics and basements and the number of dwellings allowed in medium density zones (RZ2).

  • A review of the current zoning system, with its potential replacement by a more strategic and fine-grained approach that might identify sites for higher density housing, including near transport corridors, reserves and community facilities


Architects must be involved in the design, documentation and construction of sensitive re-development projects in the established residential parts of Canberra to allow for greater innovation, density and diversity of housing. This can be achieved by mandating the engagement of suitable qualified professionals for redevelopment sites as is currently required in other jurisdictions, for instance in State Environmental Planning Policy 65 in NSW.

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Better design outcomes, increased diversity and density, while respecting the existing character of established neighbourhoods, can be achieved if we adopt performance guidelines stipulating qualitative controls with a few critical envelope controls.


Canberra needs housing that is affordable, sustainable, and of high amenity that is achieved through clever design strategies, including smaller, energy-efficient dwellings; cost-effective, space efficient and quality controlled mass housing; and the adaptation of existing housing stock to accommodate multi-generational families, and support ageing-in-place.

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LILAC is an exemplar of an affordable housing urban infill development. The development delivers ‘low impact living’ through carbon neutral construction and carbon negative running costs.


Christie Walk is a co-housing initiative where approximately 15 individuals formed a private housing co-operative to acquire and develop a 2000m² inner-city site in Adelaide, South Australia.


Ausbauhaus Neukolln in Berlin is an innovative example of the cooperative development model known in Germany as a Baugruppe. A Baugruppe (lit. “building group”) is a residential development that is initiated and funded by its residents and is usually characterised by an agreement to share certain facilities, raising a sense of community and keeping costs down.


The purpose of planning rules should be to ensure that planning objectives (such as increasing diversity of housing while ensuring access to sunlight and privacy) are achieved. A few simple measures, notably site coverage (to ensure adequate provision for deep rooted plantings) and building envelope controls (so as not to deprive neighbours of solar access), could achieve this. Instead, we have a plethora of rules which, in some cases, prevent the best outcomes. The following issues require review: 

  • Most housing in Canberra is in the general residential zone (RZ1) where, in addition to building envelope and site coverage controls, plot ratios are generally 50% (meaning that the total floor area cannot exceed half the block area). Height controls are 8.5 metres but limited to two storeys (whereas an overall height does not need to specify storeys) and attics and basements (except for garaging) are generally not permitted.

  • A review of planning rules should include the innumerable planning controls related to car parking, private outdoor space, materials, courtyards, trees, driveways, heritage, water sensitive urban design, access to easements and buildings adjacent to boundaries. 

  • Secondary residences up to 90m² are allowed on RZ1 blocks provided they comply with Australian Standards for adaptable housing (meaning they can be easily adapted to suit the needs of people with disabilities) and that additional parking can be provided. However, they cannot be unit titled.

  • Dual occupancies can exceed 90, but there are more stringent rules that apply.  For instance, unless both houses face the street, the plot ratio is subject to a sliding scale ranging from 35% for smaller blocks down to 22% for large blocks, making much of this type of development unviable.  There are also rules governing private outdoor space and car parking. The blocks cannot be unit-titled. These restrictions ensure that dual occupancies make a limited contribution to housing choice in Canberra.

  • Because of the restrictive plot ratios, there is a temptation for multiple occupancy developments to be disguised as single houses, which could impact on its legal status and have insurance implications for the occupants and owners.

  • The RZ2 zone, which allows a higher density of development and separate titling, is generally limited to areas prescribed by an arbitrary measure of some 200 metres from shopping centres.