A record 800 heritage and “character” houses are falling under demolition hammers each week, destroying miles of unique streetscapes and slicing billions off their value.The number of demolitions is almost one-third higher than previous estimates because it takes into account more suburbs in every capital, according to Phillip Almeida, director of Acquisitions Performance Advisory, which monitors national property markets.
Original houses remaining in a streetscape transformed by a “McMansion” (a house or apartment considered to be ostentatious or lacking in architectural integrity) can lose between 10 and 25 per cent of their value from the loss of street appeal, say property specialists.
It could also be a short-sighted strategy for owner-developers because scarcity of character houses, which in many cases can be adapted to modern living requirements, will continue to increase their value, according to buyers’ agents (independent consultants acting for property purchasers).
A bewildering mix of local and state agencies, councils, government bodies, local planning instruments and environmental controls mean determined developers can drive a wide-shovelled bulldozer through preservation laws.
“Profit-driven developers and Asian buyers in search of ‘trophy’ homes are responsible for the rapid disappearance of these dwellings,” says Almeida.
Buyers worried about unsuitable redevelopments should employ a town planner to check land titles or contact the local council, says Daren McDonald, a partner with ShineWing Australia, which advises property developers.
Most councils can provide details of the zoning overlay, McDonald says.
“This will keep you abreast of pending changes, planning permit applications and whether an area is defined as heritage, farming or development,” he adds.
Many councils have an online register of development applications for convenient access.
This gives local communities time to appeal to local councils, which often buckle under concerted community action, or lodge appeals through tribunals, such as the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Most vulnerable periods are Victorian, Edwardian, Queenslander, Californian bungalow, Spanish mission and art deco, says Almeida. Property styles include homes, terraces and smaller apartments with under 12 dwellings, he says.
He estimates the nation’s stock has shrunk by more than 2 per cent to about 8 per cent in the past 30 months, reflecting local and overseas demand for prime locations in popular Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane postcodes.
Melbourne and Sydney have unique urban streetscapes from the building booms of the late 19th century when they were transit points for the gold fields and among the world’s richest cities.
A lot of damage was done to their character during the 1960s thanks to misguided attempts at modernization, developer greed, lax councils and a failure by state and federal government to protect their heritage.
These days the demolition balls are swinging in the leafy inner suburbs and grittier postcodes undergoing gentrification because of their proximity to services and the city centres.
Balwyn and Box Hill, which are respectively between 12 and 20 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, are the worst hit in Victoria, says Almeida. These suburbs boast streetscapes of post-World War II double- and triple-fronted brick veneer homes.
Philippe Batters, a director of William Batters, a real estate company that specialises in inner-ring properties, says former bustling streets around prestigious schools in Balywn have been turned into “ghost towns” by absentee owners that leave the properties vacated.
“All you need are the tumbleweeds,” says Batters, who claims other residents are leaving the area because of the loss of amenity, such as the lack of playmates for their children.
PROPERTIES SOLD FOR REDEVELOPMENT
“In some areas – such as Stonnington, which covers suburbs from three to 12 kilometres south-east of Melbourne – there are no protections for good real estate. I despair at historical or beautiful properties being sold for redevelopments that add nothing to the area,” he says.
For example, a landmark 1913 Toorak mansion in St Georges Road, one of the prestige suburb’s most exclusive addresses, was torn down within days of the state government rejecting a Heritage Victoria bid to have it saved and before local residents could bring a separate legal action.
In Sydney, streetscapes at risk include Bellevue (about three kilometres from the city), Vaucluse (eight kilometres), Lindfield (about 15 kilometres) and waterfront houses in the $5 million to $20 million bracket, he says.
For example, about $80 million was recently spent buying four adjoining houses on prestigious Coolong Road at Vauclause.
It involved two harbour-front and two adjoining properties totalling about 4250 square metres.
In some cases, developers are prepared to demolish houses and risk puny fines from local authorities they know can be easily recouped by crowding more apartments on to the redevelopment site.
Brisbane is beginning to experience the impact on “dwindling prime stock”, Almeida adds.
Adelaide and Hobart, which both have low populations, remain relatively untouched by redevelopment.
Building projects are being mothballed in Perth and Darwin because of falling population and decreasing demand for new houses and units in the wake of the mining downturn.
“Many overseas investors are redeveloping to impress their family back home and are to yet understand the value of character homes,” Almeida says. “In many instances, they are ripping down these gems and replacing them with ugly McMansions that date very quickly, have no long-term value and are unlikely to attract many buyers when the time comes to sell.”
Herron King, a director of property valuer Herron Todd White, says many buyers are targeting properties not protected under planning and heritage laws, such as inner suburban mansions built between 1920 and 1940.
“Buyers want functional contemporary homes with open-plan living, parent retreats, child zones and digital capacity,” says King. “A lot of these older places are not suitable for 21st century living. If they can demolish them, they will.”
Councils in suburban areas such as Melbourne’s Albert Park, with its streets of two-storey Victorian terraces, are strictly enforcing protection of their streetscapes while allowing extensive renovations at the rear.
The “nightmare on main street” for home owners who want to retain the integrity of their neighbourhoods is worsened by the multiplicity of planning rules and codes, which often provide contradictory outcomes.
For example, in NSW there are at least 80 state environmental planning policies and regional environmental rules, hundreds of local planning instruments and dozens of related policies, plans and strategies linked to other agencies.
There are also hundreds of local planning instruments in dozens of local government areas and thousands of amendments.
In Victoria, state government policies intended to encourage more intense development around transport hubs compete with the design aims of local communities and local councils.
Read more: http://www.afr.com/real-estate/a-record-800-historic-houses-being-demolished-every-week-20160502-goklne#ixzz47x5Hv9oL