With Melbourne’s population expected to top seven million by 2050, questions have been circulating regarding how the city’s residential sector will accommodate its future populace.

The Victorian State government’s metropolitan planning strategy ‘Plan Melbourne’, estimates that 1.6 million new dwellings will need to be constructed between now and 2050, 20 per cent of which will be in the central city and surrounds, 38 per cent in other established suburbs and 42 per cent in the Greenfield growth area.

“In the future, Melbourne will need to become a more-consolidated and contained metropolis, by establishing a permanent metropolitan urban boundary and facilitating more development in established areas,” says the plan.


Below: The expanded 'Central City' will include up to 320,000 new residential dwellings in allocated 'villages'. Image: Plan Melbourne. 

In response, Monash Architecture Studio released a series of visualisations that imagine Melbourne in 2051 if more residential infrastructure is not encouraged in the city’s middle suburbs and, as the Plan Melbourne strategy suggests, 672,000 dwellings are established in the Greenfield growth area.

The Melbourne Age has reported that even the Monash architects have called their own visions, which actually laid out the footprint of New York’s Manhattan City over Melbourne, as “extreme” and “propagandas”. 

^A footprint of Manhattan was laid over Melbourne to show the future implications of the city's residential planning. The image shows Richmond as Greenwich Village, Hawthorn as Chelsea and Blackburn and Box Hill as Harlem. Image: Monash University. 

But Monash also stresses that there is a point to the provocation. Dean of Art Design and Architecture at Monash University, Shane Murray, was reported in The Age as saying he feared the implications of fringe development stemming from the Plan Melbourne strategy.

“Unless we want a city that stretches into infinity with people driving for five hours a day to get a job we really do need to transform our middle suburban areas,” he said

^What Melbourne's urban sprawl may look like. Image: Monash University

.Alexander Sheko from the Future Melbourne Network is also concerned that the plan will encourage unfettered fringe development, which he believes will become highly problematic.

“For starters, the cost of providing infrastructure to greenfield sites is $300 million higher per 1000 dwellings than the cost of upgrading infrastructure for the same number of dwellings in existing urban areas. There is also the issue of arable land being used instead for residential uses, increased car dependency and so forth,” said Sheko.

Sheko outlined how the middle suburbs have a more than considered potential to take on growth without losing their character and amenity.

“To achieve this - to avoid an even more sprawling city with a super-dense core - will take not only negotiating new zones and residents’ concerns about density but new and innovative ways of approaching infill development to achieve positive outcomes for new and existing residents, suburbs and communities,” he stated.

High-rise residential development in the central city is already in full swing with five new large-scale residential projects approved by the Victorian Government in February – the largest number of private residential permits made on one day by the state government.

Plans from Elenberg Fraser Architects for a new 202 metre residential high-rise in Melbourne’s northern CBD precinct were also recently released.

What do you think is the best approach to a rise in population? Leave a comment below to join the discussion.