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Sonya Smart (VMCH)

Catholic aged and disability organisation VMCH has called a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision to reject a retirement development in the midst of a national housing crisis “short-sighted” and “nonsensical”.

On May 18, VCAT refused an application by the non-profit organisation for a five-storey, 56-apartment retirement development in East Ivanhoe. It followed a planning permit refusal from Banyule City Council in September last year.

With the design falling within all relevant bylaws and planning requirements and meeting a huge demand for retirement accommodation across Victoria, VMCH took the case to VCAT.

VMCH chief executive Sonya Smart said she was “extremely disappointed” by VCAT’s decision, based on height and streetscape concerns.

“We don’t believe there are strong grounds for refusal,” Ms Smart said. “It seems we are victim to interpretations and greyness that surrounds planning merits. Some of VCAT’s findings are frankly absurd and appear to be based on personal perception rather than substantiated by planning controls.

“To be given a blatant ‘no’ from the tribunal with no right to appeal is also ridiculous. We were willing to work with the tribunal and council and local residents to achieve a result that would have benefited the entire community.”

VMCH uses capital from its retirement living developments to fund its mission-based projects for some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people. Last month, it launched Trinity Lane in nearby Ivanhoe, home to 39 older people on low incomes and people with disabilities. VMCH offers affordable homes to 436 financially disadvantaged people in 21 communities across Victoria. Ninety per cent of its residents are females over 55, the fastest-growing cohort of people experiencing homelessness.

“Along with the nearly $2 million wasted on this process, the cost to those we could have provided with desperately needed affordable housing is immeasurable. Retirement developments also help free up stock for young families struggling to enter the housing market.”

The Property Council’s national advocacy group, the Retirement Living Council, has thrown its support behind VMCH, noting age-friendly retirement communities deliver “significant and increasing benefits to residents and all Australian taxpayers”.


“Absurd” planning decision fails retirees (VMCH)