Spec eyes home affordability in key precinct

Developer Spec Property will sweeten an apartment project it has submitted for planning approval in Fishermans Bend by boosting the level of affordable housing and proposing a different legal framework to encourage investment.

Spec, the developer arm of Samma Property Group, has submitted revised plans for it’s site at 272 Normanby Road with at least 8% of the 307 apartments in the project given to affordable housing, a step up from the recommended level of 6 percent.

The groups site is one of 26 developments, many approved by the former Liberal Government, that were carved out from new permanent planning controls for Fishermans Bend when the controls were introduced by planning minister Richard Wynne last October.

Fishermans Bend has a chequered planning history since 2012 when the then-planning minister Matthew Guy rezoned the locality overnight as capital city zone, effectively removing height limits and sparking a speculative development cycle.

Mr Guy made little provision for infrastructure funding, public transport, parks or schools, a regimen overturned by Mr Wynne in 2015 when he imposed interim controls that were finally replaced by stricter permanent rules in 2018.

Planning uncertainty has seen development and sales in the precinct grind to a halt in the past two years. Developers behind the 26 pre-approved towers caught up in the planning changes were given site-specific planning controls, handling the minister discretion to negotiate on a case-by-case basis and reject or approve future proposals.

Spec’s 39 storey tower is one of the first to be resubmitted for approval – previous rules governing its site allowed for 40 storeys, but under the new planning amendment GC81 height limits, 20 levels are allowed.

Spec director Simon Abdelmalak, speaking to The Age from Hong Kong where he was meeting potential investors in the $250 million project, said he believed the firms approach to affordable housing would set a ‘new benchmark’ with the issue ‘close to the heart of the group’

Mr Abdelmalak hoped to enter into a section 173 agreement – a legally binding control on the use or development of the land – with the governments that will cover the definition of affordable housing and agreed leasing rates.

The groups Synergy property management arm will then find and enter into agreements with appropriate tenants for apartments which will be on-sold to investors at suitably discounted yields. “The process doesn’t require ongoing support or subsidies from the government” he said.

“If we get a permit, we just want to get on and build it. We’re keen to sell it, it’s a good precinct”

Spec is already forging ahead with another Fishermans Bend project. Earlier this month it turned the first sod on it’s Lilix development, a 95-apartment complex worth $61 Million at 51 Thistlewaite Street, which is 85 per cent sold.

Future developments in Fishermans Bend will continue to be hampered by a lack of clear guidelines around the area’s infrastructure contribution Plan, the rates which developers must pay to help fund social and physical infrastructure in the precinct.

Details of expected contributions are still being hammered out by the Fishermans Bend Taskforce and are unlikely to be finalised until year end. My Abdelmalak said Spec had budgeted to pay contributions up to $11 million.

RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT

Simon Johanson

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