How Geelong’s tallest building could ease rental crisis

The developers of what would become Geelong’s tallest building want to introduce one planning change that will have a significant impact on the local housing market, new documents show.

The Morphy Birrell Property Group has received state government approval to submit a revised application that, if approved, would see 468 build-to-rent (BTR) apartments developed at 81-101 Mercer St.

The change of direction comes after an application was lodged with the Department of Transport and Planning in November that would see the apartment complex, if approved, break Geelong’s existing height record by six metres.

It is understood little would change from those plans other than the BTR component replacing a traditional ownership structure.

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Under the BTR model, the developers would appoint a company to manage the properties once construction was completed.

Such an outcome would go some way to ease a tightening local rental market.

Artist impression of the front of the proposed development on the corner of Mercer and Cavendish streets.

The vacancy rate in regional Victoria dropped to 1.11 per cent in February, according to PropTrack data.

Furthermore, unit rents are tipped to soar by almost 25 per cent in some areas of Geelong this year as the housing crisis puts a further squeeze on household budgets.

The state government offers considerable tax concessions for long-term rental developments.

Eligible developments receive a 50 per cent reduction in land tax, as well as other benefits.

A 2022 EY report said the BTR sector represented just 0.2 per cent of the total value of the Australian market, but Treasurer Tim Pallas said it was growing.

“We recognised build-to-rent’s potential early on to create more housing options for Victorians,” he said.

In October last year, data from the Department of Transport and Planning highlighted an increase in BTR projects, including 1800 completed apartments and 12,000 either under construction or with planning approval.

Under the plans submitted in November, the mixed-used Mercer St development would see a six-storey, 20.5m-high “podium” form the basis of an overall precinct that would incorporate three apartment towers.

Geelong’s waterfront. Picture: Alan Barber

These would range in size from 33m and 10 storeys, 58m and 18 storeys, and 77m and 24 storeys.

Across all buildings, there would be 468 apartments – 115 studio, 177 one-bedroom, 148 two-bedroom, and 28 three-bedroom – as well as retail outlets, hospitality venues, a co-working space, gym and resident-only amenities.

Just 274 car parks have been allocated, spread across levels one to five, and 565 bike racks.

The same development group was behind the 21-storey, 71m-high Miramar apartment complex at 18-20 Cavendish St, which is currently Geelong’s tallest building.

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