Making It real
My story in attempting to bring a new housing type that improves affordability, livability & community resilience
When finding frustrations with the council in attempting to gain support for the proposed home design, it became clear that I need to find out the Government department that was responsible in the building and planning rules. I first approached the planning department, and after much consideration, they concluded that it was the building department that needed to be addressed. So off I went to the state building department; however, they indicated it was the national code that needed addressing. So, I then went to the National Code authority who was running several information sessions for the draft 2019 code that would mandate increasing accessibility requirements. At this time, I realised that the house design I had produced could also offer a fantastic living option for those who are physically challenged, increasing its importance as an alternative housing solution.
Notwithstanding this, I attended the sessions and questioned the speakers about who the authority was responsible for approving designs that allowed separate quarters for carers or alternative family members where there might be a need for the second kitchen. It was clearly outlined to me at these public forums that even though it was a "grey area”, it was councils’ responsibility. After returning to council armed with this, they repeated their previous advice that it was a building code issue and could not address it unless the house was issued as a class 1b (refer to earlier post). As I mentioned previously, going down a Class-1b option was fraught with risk, so I had little choice but to return to the Building Authority. After multiple attempts in emailing them with no response, I rang them up. They again told me it was a council responsibility and provided some reasons why. When I asked them for that advice in writing, the response I received was gobsmacking. "we never provide written responses". I find that deplorable. I again went back to council once again outlining what the building authority had "verbally" told me, yet the response was not different to last time. Once again, the council mentioned it was out of their control. Around this time, I was annoyingly reaching out to councillors and making submissions to the council in how they might be missing an opportunity to be innovative in caring for both its future residents and the environment. I never thought I would be "one of them" but what choice did I have left to me.
Even though I was being heard (credit to council on that front), nothing was being done nor were they willing to work through a viable solution (credit removed). Somewhere in all my pinballing through the different authorities, the Practise notes within the Building code (Additional details in how to interpret the building code), were updated to make more significant reference in how to consider homes where there were 2 living quarters above one another. It was clear that even though the council could have the authority to work around the code in this instance, the most prominent entity that prevented a multigen-house was the Building Authority. In all of this, I could not find nor was I given any plausible or scientific reason why the concept I presented would be of greater risk to life, which I could have only assumed was why no one was willing to support it. It was clear that the building rules suggested that I needed to treat the dwelling as though it was an apartment when it clearly was not. I still challenge the system to explain or show me evidence to suggest otherwise, something I have done on numerous occasions. All this to and throwing occurred over 9 months...was unnecessary time wasted when all I was trying to do was provide families with an improved alternative that seeks to improve their lives. It should not be this hard. Nor should starting the building after all of this....but nothing would be easy on this project.
A property expert with over 25 years experience working across both private and public sectors, predominately within the housing space.