Small Change - Big Impact
by Alex Steffan - Steffan Town planning
Recent Changes to Multiple Dwellings Car Parking (Brisbane City Council Town Plan)
In late November 2019, Brisbane City Council (BCC) introduced new car parking ratios that increased
the number of car parks required for a multiple dwelling development (e.g. townhouses or apartments).
These changes have since had a significant impact on the ability to design and gain approval for multiple
dwellings. The following is an overview of the differences between the before and after ratio's below:
Additionally, BCC removed any possibility for a reduction in car parking spaces where located within
ideal walking distance of high frequency public transport (e.g. busway or railway stations).
To put into perspective, the table below illustrates the implications for some standard-sized developments across Brisbane:
Whilst the changes don't appear significant, the difficultly is physically incorporating the required
car spaces and the number of bedrooms to satisfy market demand. Alternatively, reducing the number of
bedrooms to only two (2), possesses the question of developing a Townhouse product at all, as the feasibility
is now unlikely to show an adequate return.
So Why Did Council Make The Change?
In recent years, Brisbane City Council has received overwhelming (negative) feedback from residents living in
areas dominated by multi-unit dwellings, expressing concern that inadequate street parking is a result of a
spill-over from nearby unit and townhouse developments that should already cater for their residents - but don't.
Whilst there is only anecdotal evidence of this situation, there is a counter argument to suggest that the
excessive cars is caused by inadequate parking provisions from detached dwelling houses, and not multi-unit dwellings.
Under the current Town Plan, a dwelling house, irrespective of how many people live there, only requires one (1) car
park. This problem seems to be exacerbated in high demand rental areas, and most typically in areas that attract
university students, hospitals and/or in areas close to good transit nodes.
Do Council Officers Agree With The New Car Parking Ratios?
It seems Council Traffic Engineers and Town Planners don't necessarily agree with the car parking ratios but are,
understandably, required to enforce them - it's that typical conundrum of trying to satisfy public demands yet balancing
the broader, and increasingly difficult, housing affordability problem.
So Where Does That Leave Us ... What's One Possible Solution?
As private consultant planners, achieving favourable outcomes for Clients that incorporates all current local and
state planning frameworks is problematic. Accordingly, Town Planners need to get creative, offer value by looking
Upon investigating residential land uses that new parking regulations do not impact, the two (2) uses that
offer us some level flexibility are i) a Dwelling House, and ii) a Dual Occupancy (2 Units).
In selected areas (and typically 600-800 m2 sites), an opportunity therefore exists to opt for smaller
Multiple Dwelling developments - say, subdividing the land and creating a detached Dwelling House (to the
front of the site), and a Dual Occupancy to the rear (balance of the site). This approach removes the onerous
demands of the current car parting ratios.
As consultant town planners, we are becoming increasingly involved in offering this design solution, and
moving forward, we see this opportunity becoming increasing popular. Of course, economics will ultimately
prevail as vendors will also need to better understand the impact of the new car park ratios. Vendors will
need to realign their price expectations - relooking at their site from a yield perspective and pricing the