What is the Demonstration Housing Project?

The Demonstration Housing Project is testing and showcasing how we can best deliver a compact, sustainable, accessible and active city through innovative planning, design and delivery.

The project responds to an ACT Legislative Assembly resolution passed in June 2017, which asked the ACT Government to engage with the community and industry stakeholders on how to deliver demonstration housing proposals that showcase best-practice across a number of areas.

Over the next few years, a number of demonstration houses will be designed and built across Canberra which demonstrate excellence in design, construction, sustainability and innovation in housing typologies and delivery models.

Visit the Project Page for further information.

Why is the ACT Government undertaking the Demonstration Housing project?

Canberra is continuing to evolve and change. We are experiencing population growth of around 8,000 people per annum (equating to 16 people in 6 new homes each day) and we are one of the fastest ageing cities in Australia.

The Canberra community has told us that there is a ‘missing middle’ in our housing market and that we need new types of housing that are designed and delivered to ensure that they suit the needs of a range of people at different stages of their life.

Demonstration Housing projects will offer a ‘hands on’ opportunity to test the effectiveness of different housing types through real examples and future review through post-occupancy modelling.

How were proposals chosen?

In early 2018, the Demonstration Housing Project called for Stage 1 Expressions of Interest. Responses were received from individuals, developers, industry groups, community housing providers and organisations (proponents) who had a housing concept they wanted to test and deliver in Canberra. Of the 27 expressions of interest received, 17 proposals were selected to progress and invited to the next evaluation stage, Stage 2 Request for Proposal/Tender. To date, only the proposals ‘with a site’ have completed Stage 2.

Visit the Process Page for further information.

What was the Stage 1 evaluation criteria?

The Stage 1 evaluation criteria considered elements including design quality, density, innovation, carbon neutrality and options for public and affordable housing. For a full list of the criteria visit the Evaluation Criteria - Stage 1 page.

What was the Stage 2 evaluation criteria?

The Stage 2 evaluation criteria considered elements including design quality, build quality and community engagement. For a full list of the Evaluation Criteria - Stage 2 page..

What is the difference between a ‘with a site’ and ‘without a site’ proponent?

Proponents were invited to apply for one of two categories:

  • With a site – proponents who had a housing concept and already owned land (a site) appropriate for the proposed development.
  • Without a site – proponents who had a housing concept but who did not own land (a site).

We are delivering housing across both categories and assisting ‘without a site’ proponents to identify suitable ACT Government owned land appropriate for their proposals.

How is land being chosen and provided for ‘without a site’ proponents?

We are currently identifying suitable ACT Government owned land that will be appropriate for each ‘without a site’ proponent. In identifying suitable sites, we are considering:

  • The type of housing proposed
  • The size and scale of the proposal
  • The most suitable location for the proposal
  • Locations suggested by the proponent
  • Cost

Once a suitable site is found, proponents, who have been successful through the Demonstration Housing evaluation process, will be offered the site and have the opportunity to purchase the site at market value through a restricted class tender or direct sale process. This means that these sites will be offered only to the Demonstration Housing proponents as a means of fulfilling the ACT Government’s priority to test and deliver new housing typologies within Canberra.

Where are demonstration houses being built?

Demonstration houses have been proposed in a number of suburbs across Canberra including:

  • Ainslie
  • Griffith
  • Lyneham
  • Forrest
  • Weston

We are also investigating suitable land for ‘without a site’ proposals in other areas across Canberra.

Who will live in the demonstration houses once completed?

It differs between projects, however it is anticipated that a diverse range of people will live in the homes as they each offer a different housing type to suit the different needs of Canberrans. For example downsizers, people wanting to age in place, people with a disability, community housing tenants, long-term renters, families and individuals. Some Demonstration Housing proponents will live in their development, and others will live in one or more dwellings and sell the remaining, or sell all the dwellings.

How long will the Demonstration Housing project take to complete?

It is expected that the Demonstration Housing Project will take 3 to 5 years to be fully complete.

It is difficult to give an exact timeframe for completion as the project involves the construction of a number of demonstration houses, which in some cases will take multiple years to complete.

When will construction of the houses begin?

This depends on each proponent. Each of the proposals will be required to have an approved Development Application and Territory Plan Variation (if necessary), prior to any construction beginning. Noting the Territory Plan Variation process takes between 12-18 months, the earliest construction could begin for such a project would be the beginning of 2021.

What is co-housing?

Co-housing is a type of living arrangement which emphasises building a sense of community. It consists of separate dwellings with some common or shared facilities, such as kitchens, living areas, gardens, laundries and even car-share schemes for residents to use.

What is a manor house?

A manor house is a low rise medium density housing option. It is commonly known as a ‘two up – two down’. It looks like a house, has the same plot ratio and height as a house, but is actually more than one dwelling. Manor houses may have up to four dwellings, two on the ground floor and two above, all under the same roofline, with common attached walls.

How have community been involved in the Demonstration Housing Project to date?

Prior to the commencement of the Demonstration Housing Project, we conducted a range of consultations with community. This included the Planning Strategy Refresh and the deliberative democracy process Housing Choices Collaboration Hub which considered the question ‘Canberra is changing and there are many different ways our housing needs can be met. What do we need to do?’. The work of the Housing Choices Collaboration Hub assisted in developing the evaluation criteria for the Demonstration Housing Project.

We have also written to all community councils about the Demonstration Housing Project and have presented to the councils where projects are being proposed. There will be more presentations to councils as more proposals reach the stage where they are ready to undertake community engagement.

Through these conversations, we heard that people want more housing choice so that they have the option to enjoy their local community throughout different stages of life.

What opportunities are there for community involvement in the future?

There will be a number of opportunities for the community to have their say on Demonstration Housing projects. Each proponent is required to undertake their own pre-development application community consultation. The size and scale of this consultation will vary, depending on the project, however may include drop-in sessions, letter box drops, presentations to community councils etc.

To date, proponents Stellulata and Manor House have completed their pre-development application consultation, with other proponents to undertake consultation throughout 2020-2021.

There will also be the formal statutory process of the Development Application and Territory Plan Variation where the community can make a submission.

Why are these projects being tested in residential areas?

During the Housing Choices and Planning Strategy Refresh community engagements, we heard that people want more housing choice, and in particular the option to age in place. Delivering demonstration housing throughout different areas of Canberra is important in providing housing choice, and to ensure these exciting and innovative housing types are provided in a range of locations throughout Canberra.

It is a priority for the ACT Government to test new ways of living in different areas across Canberra, and this includes our residential areas. In 2018, we set the direction of having 70% of new housing within our existing urban footprint. This means more homes in our existing residential areas. The Demonstration Housing Project provides an opportunity for us to test innovative ways of achieving this.

During the Demonstration Housing evaluation process, each proposal was evaluated against criteria including context and neighbourhood character. This is to ensure all projects respond to the existing character of the area in which they are built.

How is the Demonstration Housing project addressing density throughout Canberra?

The Demonstration Housing Project aims to showcase a range of housing types which delivers increased density done well and in ways that are not permitted under the current planning rules. It aims to show that density does not necessarily mean an apartment building, but can also be delivered through forms which complement and enhance the existing neighbourhood environment.

What do we mean when we talk about the ‘missing middle’ of housing?

Canberra currently caters well to people wanting to buy a family home or an apartment. However we have a ‘missing middle’ within our housing market.

This means that we lack options for low rise, medium density housing types that fall in-between smaller apartments and larger freestanding homes.

Missing middle housing includes duplexes (two attached or semi-attached dwellings), townhouses, terrace houses (dwellings built in a continuous row), dual occupancies (two dwellings on one block of land), and manor homes. Duplexes are a common feature in the older parts of Canberra, but tended to fall out of favour as Canberra grew. These types of dwellings provide opportunities for increased density within established residential areas on smaller sites.

Are demonstration housing proponents exempt from having to complete a development application (DA) and Territory Plan Variation (TPV)?

No, they are not. Each of the proponents is required to follow standard statutory processes for development within the ACT which includes the preparation of a DA and TPV, if relevant to their proposal.

Is it guaranteed that the proponents’ development application and Territory Plan Variation will be approved since they’ve been through the Demonstration Housing Project?

No. Demonstration Housing projects must go through the regular Development Application and Territory Plan Variation statutory process and assessment. This includes community consultation, which requires proponents to address any concerns or issues that may arise. The ultimate approval to proceed with a Territory Plan Variation rests with the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Most of the demonstration housing projects require Territory Plan Variations to go ahead. Does this mean that there will there be broad changes to the Territory Plan to allow for more of these types of houses in the future?

Once completed, each of the individual housing projects will be evaluated as will the Demonstration Housing Project as a whole. A decision about any possible changes to the Territory Plan or the ACT Government’s housing policies, flowing from the Demonstration Housing Project, will be made by the ACT Government. Ultimately, the final decision about varying the Territory Plan will be made by the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The ACT is leading by example in delivering the Demonstration Housing Project and the work of this project compliments other reforms including the Better Building Quality reforms and ACT Planning Review. Any future changes to the Territory Plan would be considered in conjunction with our commitment to deliver better planning and building as we deliver a compact, efficient and sustainable Canberra into the future.

What will happen once the demonstration houses have been built and completed?

Upon completion, each project will be evaluated against a set of criteria including the sustainability of the building and the degree to which it supports different ways of living. Once projects are built, an ‘open house’ session will be organised so that members of the public can see the final product and your feedback can be captured.

The lessons learnt from the Demonstration Housing Project will help inform future government policy and Territory Plan changes, which is hoped will encourage and support improved housing choice and housing quality in Canberra.

The houses will then become functional dwellings and will provide homes for a range of community members across Canberra.

Will there be another round of Demonstration Housing?

There are no plans for another round of Demonstration Housing projects at this stage.