Grand and luxurious lifestyle no longer sustainable

Many properties in Boroondara are single-dwellings with large gardens.
A Hawthorn real estate agent says residents "can't have their cake and eat it too" and medium density developments are needed to accommodate population. Annelise Answerth reports.

The lifestyle and grand architecture of Boroondara have become impractical and unsustainable for future generation and population, according to Hawthorn Real Estate Agent Richard Earle.

With 76 per cent of Boroondara under the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, allowing only low density developments, such as houses and single dwellings, the values of properties continues to increase.

The City of Boroondara’s 174,899 residents is projected to grow by 20.57 per cent by 2041, according to the Council’s latest statistics.

Earle warns that residents “can’t have their cake and eat it too”, and accept that medium density developments are needed to accommodate population.

“Boroondara has more private schools than any municipality in the state, which underpins the growth, parents want their kids to walk to school,” said Earle.

“Another factor is the Victorian and Edwardian architecture, which the baby boomers naturally want to protect the landscape, the architecture and the lifestyle they enjoyed with their parents,” he said.

Jack Roach, Boroondara resident and president of the Boroondara Residents Action Group, said that he is, “protecting what I love about our neighbourhood”.

He said, “People say to us you’re being selfish, but there’s no way I’m sharing my accommodation.”

At the city’s Urban Planning Special Committee meeting on March 21, residents of Precinct 74 in Balwyn, from Cherry Road to Reid Street, argued against its current zoning of General Residential Zone.

The zoning can allow low density, low rise developments, such as dual occupancies, and residents objected due to parking, infrastructure and the neighbourhood character.

The Council did not change the zone, but agreed to amendments aimed at preventing apartment complex development, by imposing extra conditions on builders and developers in that particular area.

Senior Planning Council officer Amanda Seymour said, “these developments will accommodate people’s lives at different stages.”

Sarah Cain, 21, a  nursing student, moved to Melbourne at 19 from Echuca.

She is a resident of an apartment complex in Camberwell,  and pays $825.50 a month for her bedroom apartment.

She can see both sides of the argument.

Cain said, “Those big old houses are beautiful yet only a family lives there, my complex has 12 apartments of two to three people on the same land.”

“I do think neighbour character is important because I personally like that era, but not everyone can afford it because they’re ridiculously expensive,” she said.

Student Sarah Cain.
Student Sarah Cain.

“What has happened is the values have risen above where the salaries put you, meaning only the wealthy can afford to live in those big homes,” said Earle.

“Boroondara is selling for $3000 a square metre, meaning a 7000 square metre block is selling for $2,100,000 before you put a house on it,” he said.

Cain said she would not be able to afford a house in the Boroondara area.

“I looked in a magazine and a shoebox with three bedrooms and one bathroom cost $1,000,000, while I could get something much nicer back home for $300,000,” she said.

The price is not the only problem, according the Earle.

“These houses are built on what were main roads and now main arterials,” he said, with the traffic and noise making them, “not nice places to live”.

“What we are seeing is ground floor shops, three storeys of residents and car parking underneath. These developments are what the council want to see all along the major roads,” he said.

“So were going to see more and more relatively low density townhouses of 2-3 on a block of say 40 squares of accommodation,” said Earle.

According to Earle, Melbourne will become more European in lifestyle, with smaller accommodation spaces and larger communal outdoor spaces. But the demand will continue to arise with the population growth.

Roach agrees, “The big issue today is the rate of this population growth with this development.”

“Seven hundred and ninety people come into Victoria to live every week and 20 million Asians are projected to be here by 2041,” he said.