Housing avilability issues comes to the fore.

With the NSW state government directly indicating that it wants more high rise residential apartments in the North Sydney LGA, two developers have responded with plans for major apartment initiatives. But there is pushback on one of them amid concerns that good planning practice is being bypassed.

The developer of the site over the coming Crows Nest Metro station, Third.i, said it will dedicate about 15 percent of its proposed residential tower at Hume Street to affordable housing for nearby hospital workers.

Third.i and its partner PPI said they are joining with one of Australia’s largest community housing providers, Evolve Housing, to designate 15% of the mixed-used development to nurses, midwives, health professional and services staff working at nearby Royal North Shore Hospital and other local health facilities in perpetuity. “This will allow health workers, who are unable to find affordable rental apartments within the Local Government Area, to live close to their workplaces,” they said.

A survey conducted by the developers found many St Leonards health workers travelled 30 to 50km to work, with the cost of local studio apartments equivalent to 58% of their pay.

Third.i and PPI have already been granted Stage 1 approval for the Metro Precinct Site A and B development, but are proposing to amend the concept for mixed-use, which includes a mix of affordable housing, private residential, retail, and commercial floor space. Although the two did not identify the number of new apartments planned, they did place a value of $130 million on the initiative.

Earlier this year, Third.i indicated full priced units in the development would cost around $800,000 for a one-bedroom and $1.8 million for a two-bedroom unit.

Meanwhile, MLC Building owner Investa has released plans to re-purpose the empty office block as a build-to-rent office tower. Having been thwarted by the state government and the courts to demolish the 1957 building, Investa now wants to refit the building to support 340 apartments and 2500sq m of retail space.

However, the plan has attracted instant opposition from North Sydney Council.

Mayor Zoe Baker told the Sydney Morning Herald that “In one fell swoop, something like this undermines that careful planning and conservatorship of that core for commercial purposes. We’ll be making a very strong submission that this not proceed.” She added that it will be the “death knell” for the North Sydney CBD.

According to Council, “the existing E2 – Commercial Core zone, expressly prohibits residential development including serviced apartments. This prohibition has been in place for many years.”

The North Sydney Local Strategic Planning Statement says “The North Sydney CBD will retain its commercial core zoning to ensure that employment capacity is provided for and residential development is restricted to its peripheral locations. This will ensure that North Sydney continues to deliver a place that is reflective of the highest order centre assigned under the regional and district plans.”

It’s worth noting that there is some residential accommodation in the North Sydney CBD already.

There is an apartment block at 93 Pacific Highway, just one block away from MLC, as well as substantial residential property north of Berry St, again just one block away.

TINK’S FORUM PLAN: Meanwhile, independent federal MP for North Sydney Kylea Tink has made the call out to local residents for their ideas on how to solve the housing issue. “What’s the one big idea we need to push Canberra to consider? What’s the idea you think will make the most impact but which politicians seem unwilling to consider?” she asked, calling for written submissions by this weekend.

Tink is also engaging in what she calls deliberative democracy to help foster discussions about solutions, via a North Sydney Community Housing Forum. “For this event, a group of around 30-40 residents will convene to spend a day together to consider potential solutions to this difficult policy problem. Participants are asked to find common ground around one idea, showing their reasoning and what questions need to be answered to know if it is viable,” Tink said.   “Participants will be selected from a random sample of voters in the North Sydney electorate,” and weighted to be representative.  “They will be representative of a cross-section of the electorate’s demographics and geography.”

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