BCC proposes restricting townhouse development: Why we think it’s a bad idea

The Brisbane City Council (BCC) has put forward a proposal to restrict townhouses from single home areas, city wide. The change is described on the BCC site as:

“The proposed amendment intends to:

  • remove provisions in zone codes, development codes and neighbourhood plans supporting Multiple dwellings (townhouses and apartments) in the Low density residential zone
  • amend other relevant provisions in City Plan to align with this change, including amendments to the Strategic framework, and make necessary consequential amendments. “

Why we think it’s a bad idea:

A lack of choice

Without townhouses, housing choices will be restricted. If you’re not into apartments — and not everyone likes apartment living, as they want more space, or are accustomed to having a garden to tend to — then where do you buy? Finding small houses that fit the bill can be incredibly hard in some suburbs, and nigh-impossible in others. Maybe a traditional house is just too big for you, or there’s too much backyard to mow. Townhouses are a legitimate option for many people who want the a house lifestyle but not the size of property.

It’s going to hurt affordability

Brisbane and wider Australia is in a housing affordability crisis. Survey after survey shows us that young Australian lament that they will never be able to afford to own their own home. Townhouses are a very effective way to build affordable housing in locations where apartments are not appropriate. Removing townhouses as a legitimate development option will just put another nail in the coffin of home affordability in Brisbane.

Townhouses are often priced lower than the traditional house, due to being smaller internally and externally. According to Natalie Rayment, Director of Walter Consulting Group and Founder of Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY, a group dedicated to good development outcomes across QLD), townhouses provide “entry into the housing market at a lower cost on average compared to a house of a similar age in the same neighbourhood”. Consider how much more difficult it will be to buy for first home buyers and low-income earners without townhouses in certain areas of Brisbane.

Downsizing opportunities restricted

If you’re thinking about downsizing, townhouses are an ideal option. They give you space for everything (including the kids and grandkids who may come to stay) without being so large that you feel lonely or like an empty-nester. Townhouses also give buyers the option to downsize and remain in the suburb where they have lived for years, and may have many friends and that feels familiar and safe. This has to be a consideration for town planners given our aging population. Quite simply townhouses are an attractive housing option for our elderly and well constructed townhouses located in our suburbs can delay or even prevent our elderly having to move into aged care.

Stops urban sprawl and makes better use of existing infrastructure

Townhouse developments create more compact urban living areas, especially in low-density neighbourhoods, making better use of existing infrastructure — which reduces the need for future construction. This reduces the amount of your taxes that are spent on updating infrastructure (putting the money towards other causes), and perhaps more importantly for residents: it reduces the noise associated with construction, which can often take months (and many road closures). Additionally, improving the use of current infrastructure is better for the environment.

Another point highlighted by Natalie in regards to this is that “townhouses in low density areas protects more central and accessible locations for higher density living”. This is particularly important for the whole of Brisbane going forward, considering that the population of the city (and of Australia in general) is expected to double by 2050.

Well designed townhouses add to a suburbs character

You know the types of townhouses and townhouse estates that we’re talking about: you’ve got a bit of house-envy, and every time there’s an open house you pop down for a ‘quick check’ because you love the kitchen/bathroom/bedroom design so much (and then get on Pinterest to try to figure out how to make your kitchen/bathroom/bedroom look that fantastic). Well designed townhouses add a lot to the suburbs they’re in, and completely banning them from certain areas may have a negative impact on the development of those suburbs into the future.

What we suggest

Of course, if we’re going to pan this proposal, then you must be asking yourself “what do they think we should do then!

Luckily for you, we have the beginnings of an answer. Only the beginning, because we believe that an answer that would address every issue with town planning and townhouses is something that requires immense community input, thought and deliberation. After all, we want to create a city that is beautiful to live in for the rest of our lives, and that requires ongoing restructuring, consideration, and attention.

We would suggest that the Brisbane City Council instead opts to require stricter planning laws in regards to townhouse developments. It is not enough that they are functional. They need to look good and integrate with the neighbouring streetscape; they should require developers to match these developments to the character of the neighbourhood they are being built in. They should have stricter laws to make them low-impact, now and in the future, to help protect the environment and livability of a suburb.

As a city, we need to ensure that Brisbane remains livable for years to come: without townhouses, we remove one important lever that visionary and effective town planners can use to build a truly livable Brisbane. After all the job of town planning and building a livable Brisbane City is a demanding and incredibly difficult job. We question how removing one potential lever / development option will make this job easier. Nae, sadly it will make effective town planning more difficult.

Yes, control townhouse development. Yes, demand more from property developers. But ban it – we say no!

What are your thoughts?

We encourage you to lodge a submission against the ban using the button below. Submissions against this proposal are accepted any time until Monday the 26th of August at 5pm. Use any of the ideas above, and/or your own, and help us build a future Brisbane that’s an exciting, fun place to live.

Written: 20 August 2019, Updated: 22 January 2020

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