The State Government announced in their Budget that it wants to sell our grand, historic, sandstone Treasury buildings on the corners of Murray, Macquarie and Davey streets. It's rumoured that international hotel developers are interested in buying them.
Many people think the Treasury buildings should stay in public ownership, and be converted into a colonial art gallery, tourism information centre, extension of TMAG, and more, as a gateway to Hobart and Tasmania. My vision is for a place a bit like the Customs House at Circular Quay in Sydney - an iconic public space with free entry and open seven days a week. Inside is a library, exhibition area, a public 'lounge', meeting rooms for hire, cafes and restaurants.
A lot of people are interested in alternatives to selling off this sandstone treasure for a generic “Old Treasury Hotel”, the likes of which are found in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. In early July, I spoke at an event hosted by the Australia Institute where some interesting ideas were discussed, like organising an Open Day. It’s important to note that the sale of these buildings will have to go through parliament, so there is an opportunity for this to be debated and blocked by parliament if there is sufficient support for a better option.
Earlier this year I proposed a motion to try to deal Council into discussions about the Treasury buildings, because I feared the state government was going to proceed with privatising this valuable public asset. Council agreed to a modified version of my motion at the 5 March 2018 meeting. As a result, we will soon receive a report on whether the Council should also consider nominating the Treasury buildings for listing as a National Heritage Place.
As we know, Hobart is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis – and the community is looking to us as city leaders to act urgently, decisively and on multiple fronts.
Recently I moved a motion to seek advice on how we might be better able to use planning laws and our role in approving developments to increase the supply of affordable units within new private developments.
Inclusionary Zoningis the jargon used for this kind of intervention. It involves requiring developers to incorporate a certain amount affordable housing in their site, or pay a cash-in-lieu contribution for this obligation to be discharged off-site.
When Council set planning rules for Macquarie Point in 2015-16, I moved amendments to secure a percentage of affordable housing on the site. While the Council did not agree to my proposal to mandate this, I worked with the housing policy group, Shelter, to persuade a majority of Aldermen to agree to compromise rules. The Macquarie Point Corporation fought even these softer planning rules at the Planning Commission, which found in their favour and against Council!
If we started using ‘inclusionary zoning’, we could require that residential developments over a certain size (say more than 10 units) or in a certain area (like in the area between the city and North Hobart) include a percentage of ‘affordable units’.
Sounds a bit complicated, but this type of policy intervention is becoming common practice around the world in response to the problems cities are facing as gentrification locks people out of housing.
In Canberra, for example, 20 percent of all housing in new developments needs to be able to be sold or rented at a price that is affordable to the people earning in the lower average income brackets.
We could have sought this advice for Hobart. However, the majority of Council voted against my motion and instead decided to start a review of its Housing and Homelessness Strategy. In itself, this isn’t a bad thing because the strategy needs improvement and was due to run out in 2019 anyway.
But why not also look at inclusionary zoning as part of the policy mix? I moved that the review also include inclusionary zoning, but Council voted against that too. It's disappointing that Aldermen who profess to be concerned about housing voted (twice!) against getting advice on this policy option, despite it growing in use around the world because it works.
If we don’t start pushing for these changes now, we will still be complaining in a few years that we don’t have the tools to fix Hobart’s housing crisis.
Small but significant win for information
Are you shocked to discover a major development proposal is about to start, when you happen to see a small piece of paper stuck in a less than obvious spot?
It’s worried me since being elected nearly four years ago - so I’ve been on the lookout for better practice over a few years and advocating for change inside Council.
The public notice (above) advertising the redevelopment of the corner of Elizabeth and Warwick Streets (below).
In Fremantle WA, a special page is created on their website for major developments, with diagrams of what is planned, the decision-making timeline, and an easy way for people to submit comments.
In Vancouver Canada, they erect large and informative signs for developments, with an image of the proposal and a clear timeline.
But in Hobart, we still have some way to go. The photo above of a small A4 public notice fluttering in the wind is the only indication on-site of a major development proposed for the corner of Warwick and Elizabeth Streets (above) that exceeds height rules in the planning scheme.
I was happy that Council recently agreed to improve our practices. In the future, 'significant’ planning applications will have a webpage created (like in Fremantle), and a range of larger site signage options will be explored.
People in Hobart are very interested in the future of the city, but many are also suspicious of the development and planning system. With these suggested changes, at least the community won't feel like major projects are being forced upon them without an opportunity for scrutiny and discussion.
COMING UP ...
Fragrance hotel and apartments
cnr Warwick and Elizabeth Streets
The Fragrance company has lodged a development application (search PLN-17-430) for two towers (12 and 13 storeys) in North Hobart, for a hotel and apartments at 234-250 Elizabeth Street (cnr. Warwick Street). It will be coming before the Council in a few weeks. The proposal is well outside the preferred building height limits in our planning rule book, so the developer will ask Council to use "discretions" to allow this taller building.
Why aren't you an Alderwoman? Local Government Association conference
One question I'm often asked is “why are you called an Alderman?” People wonder whether there could be a better, more contemporary name for our local government representatives.
The City of Burnie has put this issue on the agenda for the upcoming Local Government Association conference at the end of July. They propose to shift to use the term ‘Councillor’ as most Australian cities have now done.
Notwithstanding that ‘Councillor Anna’ doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as ‘Alderman Anna’ ;)....I do think it’s time to shift to a title that is more in keeping with Councils made up of men and women!
Council started talking about a transport strategy in 2015, and it’s taken more than two years to pull it together. From my perspective, it’s well and truly time to sign off on it and get on to actual implementation of new ideas and approaches. You can read it here. If you would like to have some input please attend an information session…
4-6pm, 23 July - South Hobart Living Arts Centre, Macquarie St
4-6pm, 24 July - Derwent Sailing Squadron, Sandy Bay
4-6pm, 25 July - Lenah Valley Community Hall
5-7pm, 26 July – Town Hall, Macquarie Street
Glebe Residents Traffic Committee meeting, Tuesday 24 July, 5.30pm, Philip Smith Centre South Hobart Residents Traffic Committee meeting, Wednesday 1 August, 5.30pm, Darcy St Community Centre
Running for Lord Mayor
I'm running for Lord Mayor at the upcoming local government elections in October. I would love your support for my campaign, and if you feel you can help with a poster on your fence or a donation, please get in touch here.
Newsletter 24(February 2018) - announcement of my intention to run for Mayor Newsletter 25(March 2018) - housing affordability, significant trees, civic heritage, street take-over Newsletter 26(May 2018) - City of Literature, reform of the planning system Newsletter 27 (June 2018) - CBD height rules, Franklin Square, Mountain Mayday
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