Owner of three car spaces in East Ivanhoe flats wants to build three-level house
The Sydney Morning Herald
Clay Lucas
03 April 2017

Residents of the East Ivanhoe flats who are fighting the plan to build a house in the three car parks they are standing in.   Photo: Simon Schluter

Most people would see three car parking spaces, next to the rubbish bins, at the back of a 1950s block of flats.

Not Joe Galic. He has a vision for something much bigger. Three levels bigger, to be precise.

For 15 years, Mr Galic's family has owned the last three parking spaces behind an apartment block in Lower Heidelberg Road, East Ivanhoe.

He doesn't live in the flats – he lives in a house next door – but he's tried selling the car parking spots in the past. He hasn't found any buyers.

So, with the median house price at $1.7 million in East Ivanhoe, he's trying something even he concedes is "out there".

Mr Galic has applied to Banyule Council to turn his three car spaces into an 80-square-metre, three-level townhouse. With parking on the ground floor, of course.

The existing owners in the block of flats – who have always regarded the car parking spaces as places for vehicles, not a development opportunity – aren't happy.

The car park in the East Ivanhoe block of flats.  Photo: Simon Schuter

The house would stand out "like a sore thumb" amid the apartments' 26-space parking area, said Andrew Mitchell, who owns an apartment in the East Ivanhoe block. He is also on the body corporate committee. He and others in the block are opposing the plan.

Mr Mitchell said Melbourne's real estate boom and subsequent housing crisis was leading to absurd concepts. "If this goes ahead, opportunistic apartment owners all over the country will start converting their car parks into tiny homes," he said.

The fight over dormant land is something Melbourne could see more of, if changes under consideration by the Andrews government to body corporate laws go through.

Under current laws, Mr Galic would likely require 100 per cent approval from the body corporate for his two-bedroom townhouse.

The government is considering changing the body corporate laws so that only 75 per cent support is required to make changes to common property.

The company that runs the body corporate for the residents points out that there is a two-metre height limit on anything being built next to common property.

Mr Galic, for his part, is trying everything he can to convince owners in the block to support his plan.

He says a townhouse will be far more attractive than a cracked concrete car park, and is offering to pay a portion of body corporate fees for residents for a year if they support him. He has also offered, among other things, to pay for some of the car park to be turned into a garden.

Mr Galic said his plan was a great way of using surplus land for much-needed housing. There would be "vast amounts of land" locked up in similar old blocks of flats all over Melbourne, he said.

But he conceded the proposal was "out there in terms of the idea – [but] a new idea isn't necessarily a bad idea".

He said the "barren" car park would only be improved by building a house on it. "[It would mean] the barren car space isn't just an eyesore, [and] it increases the value of everyone's asset," he said. The townhouse would cost about $400,000 to build.

Rob Beck is the general manager of Strata Community Australia, which represents body corporate managers across the country. He said it was a "distinct possibility" that owners corporations would increasingly consider this type of proposal.

But under Victoria's current laws, the East Ivanhoe plan was unlikely to succeed because it needs 100 per cent support from all property owners.

If a proposal goes through to change that law, to follow NSW and Queensland's lead, it would make redevelopment easier, he said.

"We've seen cases in Queensland and NSW where the one holdout has caused a problem, and that was the impetus behind some of their changes," he said. "Without this we are effectively stopping any form of development."

Banyule Council is taking submissions from the public on the East Ivanhoe plan until Friday.

Ironically, among the council's concerns are whether the new house will provide enough car parking.

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