An open letter written by a group of younger residents calling on ACT politicians to make changes to density regulations has caused a generational split between locals, with the letter meeting opposition by local residential groups of older ages.
If altered, the restriction changes would allow a proposed ‘manor house’ located on Blaxland Crescent, Griffith, to be built as part of the ACT government’s demonstration housing project.
The open letter argues that the project is an “overdue examination of opportunities for the densification of the inner south.” The proposed development would replace a single-dwelling home in an RZ1 ‘low density’ area.
Those who argue against the proposal say the draft amendment would undermine current planning controls and would lead to more units in areas that have been specifically zoned as single-residential home areas.
The open letter says the existing regulations do not work in favour of any future developments that are not of the single-residential home type.
"Clinging to exclusionary zoning laws such as this to appease a loud minority of landholders is not in the interest of the territory," it says.
"As young people without property and their allies these matters are central to our future and our children's future. This opposition to density and development sacrifices that future to placate misplaced fears and traps Canberra in an unsustainable vision of the past.”
Howard Maclean, the letter’s Lead Author, says Griffith and other suburbs within the ACT would be made richer by altering density regulations.
"I definitely recognise that when people buy houses they're also buying a place, and I'm not going to say that those concerns (about increasing density) are completely illegitimate," he says in an interview with the Canberra Times.
The manor house development would not have any wider effect on regulations within the ACT. Despite this, an overwhelming majority opposed 530 submissions to the draft variation, 470 of those being a form letter.
"Care will be taken to retain the features of the city that people value, including the bush capital setting and access to green space," reads the ACT’s planning strategy, released in 2018, that says it will increase density in appropriate places.
The Griffith/Narrabundah Community Association believes that the only beneficiaries of these changes would be the lessees of the block. It distributed a letter cementing their views on the proposal.
"The largest investment for most families is the purchase of a home. It is crucial they know what could be built next to them. Families need certainty and trust in the planning system. They do not want the surprise of a four-unit two-storey, apartment-style dwelling with nine car parks built next door and impacting on their privacy and amenity," the letter says.
"Many residents in the inner south are concerned that changing the rules to allow for the construction of units will reduce the value of existing houses and increase the noise and local traffic in the streets.”
Maclean says there are more benefits to amending density rules than just affordable housing, believing it increases sustainability and reduces carbon emissions.
"We think that actually when you increase the density of a suburb, you increase the number of services and goods and employment opportunities that can be reached by walking or using a bike, or using a scooter. That is a non-car solution," he says.
The open letter has so far attracted about 80 signatories. Public comment on the draft variation closed in mid-April, with public comments now being reviewed internally, that will inform a brief for the ACT government’s Planning Minister Mick Gentleman.