6 May 2024

Is 'building up' the answer to Wagga's property future? Approved unit plan could hold key to what's in store

| Jarryd Rowley
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A new development plan for 115 Fitzmaurice Street, which could deliver 16 new apartments in the CBD, has been approved by WWCC and could be the answer to Wagga’s housing future. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

There has been great debate between residents and Wagga Wagga City Council for several years as to the best way to deliver more dwellings to market and ease the housing squeeze.

Suburbs such as Boorooma, Gobbagombalin and Lloyd have all seen recent expansion but a new development application (DA) approved by WWCC this week could hold the key to future housing projects.

The approved DA, for a $7.86 million, five-storey, 16-unit redevelopment of 115 Fitzmaurice Street proposed by Architects Ring & Associates, was backed by councillors at the council’s 29 April meeting and could mark the beginning of a new housing style in the heart of Wagga.

The proposal would see the ground floor occupied by two storefronts, similar to the existing building, while the top-four floors, three of which would be added as part of a redevelopment, would be reserved for residents.

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During the 29 April meeting, Deputy Mayor Amelia Parkins was one of the more vocal supporters of store-top housing, saying it was the type of diversity Wagga needed.

“We want housing, we want housing diversity and we want people living in our CBD because that’s what will activate those areas,” Cr Parkins said.

“We’ve got a ridiculously long main street. So this is a really good first step for providing more activity to what’s already quite a successful area.

“There’s a huge gap missing in the demand for Wagga. This application has brought to light the deficit that we’ve got in front of us. I think this type of application is what we want to see for the future of Wagga.”

After the meeting, council general manager Peter Thompson backed the councillors’ decision to approve the DA, describing the verdict as a positive one.

“It’s in the CBD, which is always positive because more people will activate it more than it is right now,” Mr Thompson said.

“We’re looking to have more offerings in an area, and encouraging more density in the CBD will encourage that even further.”

While there is currently no start date for the development, Mr Thompson said the council’s decision may create a snowball effect, with more businesses potentially applying for CBD-based housing developments.

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“Given that everyone’s looking for ways of providing housing, one of the ways that we can provide housing is to provide opportunities for people to live in units within the CBD,” he said.

“We would certainly be supporting this type of innovation.”

Committee member for the Housing Industry Association Tony Balding agrees that Wagga needs to find alternative ways to deliver housing, but he also believes that ”building up” is not as cost-effective as WWCC may think.

“One of the biggest issues with new housing is that we are continually bombarded with new legislation and new requirements, all with good intentions, but it still adds to the cost of multi-storey developments,” he said.

“Building up doesn’t mean that it’s a cheaper option, not just for the builders but the residents as well. The cost per square metre for a site like that is going to be more than a greenfield site.

“It’s another way of living in a regional city that hasn’t really been available before, sure, but do people who move to regional cities really want the same lifestyle as people living in the major cities?”

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