Poor policies block green housing goals: study

Australian states are failing to deliver sustainable housing because of poor building and land-use planning policies, and a lack of enforceable standards, according to a new RMIT University report

The report, Implementing Sustainability in the Built Environment (PDF), examines why the existing planning and building systems are not meeting sustainability goals and what can be done to improve current policy and regulatory frameworks, and their implementation.

Co-author Dr Andréanne Doyon, from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research, says NSW is the only state without serious gaps in legislation and enforcement.

“Land-use planning policy and regulation is critical in delivering ecological sustainable development (ESD) in our cities,” Doyon said.

“We reviewed existing policy and best practice across Australian states, with a focus on Victoria, and found that despite the prevalence of ESD in government strategy documents, neither the building codes nor the planning system are achieving sustainability goals.

“While there are a range of factors accounting for the lack of action on ESD, one explanation concerns the long-standing adversarial relationship between planning and building.”

The researchers analysed Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal data and key ESD cases since 2003 and found a “continual passing of responsibility” between building and planning systems.

“We found severe inconsistencies in decision-making and tensions between the state planning framework and local government efforts to increase engagement with ESD through planning,” she said.

“It seems that there is limited understanding of the intersection between the two systems.”

Doyon says states could adopt similar policies to the NSW Building and Sustainability Index (BASIX) – a sustainability scorecard developed by the NSW Government, together with local government and the housing and development industry that is used to manage the development control process of most residential buildings.

“While BASIX isn’t perfect, it is part of the development application process and is one of the strongest sustainability measures in Australia,” Doyon said.

“Voluntary sustainability assessment tools can only go so far.

“What we need are clear and enforceable standards for ESD in both building and planning regulation, and more collaboration between all levels of government to bring these two systems into better alignment.”

For interviews: Dr Andréanne Doyon, andreanne.doyon@rmit.edu.au, (03) 9925 3087 or 0481 259 414

For general media enquiries: Chanel Bearder, chanel.bearder@rmit.edu.au, (03) 9925 0917 or 0432 140 673