Rooming house gets the green light despite strong community opposition, but developers say it will be aimed at professionals

Rooming house gets the green light despite strong community opposition, but developers say it will be aimed at professionals
Brendan Rees

A controversial plan to create a rooming house within a student apartment block in Carlton will go ahead despite plenty of opposition from the community.    

Developer BA Lygon Street Pty Ltd won the City of Melbourne’s approval to turn the first floor of the northern tower of College Square’s building at 570-574 Lygon St into medium-stay accommodation which would be “aimed at professionals”, and comprise 11 rooms, a shared kitchen, laundry, and sitting area.

City of Melbourne councillors voted unanimously in favour of the project at their April 5 Future Melbourne Committee meeting despite the proposal attracting 382 objections.

Some of the concerns included existing residents not wanting people experiencing homelessness or drug users being on site, the accommodation attracting people with “social problems” as well as limited resident amenities, no 24-hour security, risk of people staying indefinitely, the building having built for the purpose of providing student accommodation, and issues of noise problems among others.

But that didn’t stop councillors from giving the proposal the green light – as council officers stated in their report that potential tenants would be of “suitable and of good character,” with the manager obtaining copies of their rental history, proof of income, employment details, contact details of referees, and other particulars.

David Bayley, a town planner at Clause 1 Town Planning Consultants, which represents BA Lygon Street, said his client had purchased the tenancy as there was a “demand for medium-term accommodation for city-based professionals.”

Mr Bayley said the rooms would be let on a six- to 12-month basis through a letting agency with similar vetting procedures “as a standard for-lease tenancy arrangement.”

“Objectors have made a number of assumptions about the tenants, that they would be low-income, be affected by drugs, be criminals, and a number of other preconceptions but without any substantiation,” he said.


Based on the material that we’ve lodged with the application; it is clearly not the intent of the applicant to provide accommodation which would facilitate these behaviours.


However, according to a council report, the proposal “nominates that it is for professionals but may open up to others.”

Tom Bacon, a lawyer at Strata Title acting for the College Square owners’ corporation, said the existing owners and landlords within the building had “suffered greatly over the last two years with reduced or no rents” and the proposal would “build the rental market at a time in which the owners and landlords are already doing it tough.”

“A much better use of this current office space would have been to provide for services that would enhance the area, such as retail or a cafe or some other form of entertainment facility, rather than using this for further intensification through a rooming house, where opportunities to convert back will be lost.”

Deputy Lord Mayor and planning chair Nicholas Reece said the proposal and all objections had been “very closely scrutinised” by the council, with developers reducing the number of rooms from 18 to 11 in response to community feedback.

“When people hear the words ‘rooming house’, they do have a certain set of preconceptions that they bring to that type of accommodation,” he said.

“I take some comfort from the strict house rules that have been in place for tenants here, including the prohibition on alcohol consumption in shared living spaces, strict rules preventing noise pollution, and the establishment of the complaints hotline for adjacent residents, and also rules around when visitors are allowed and so on.”

He added there would also be mandating of regular meetings between the accommodation operators and neighbouring apartments.

Cr Rohan Leppert said a planning decision was a “very straightforward one” and believed the conditions recommended by council officers would “deliver a profitable and welcoming and high amenity premises.” •


Caption: The first floor of the northern tower at College Square in Carlton is set to become a rooming house. Photo: Rhonda Dredge.

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