Western Australia now has a new type of tenure that proponents say will deliver greater housing diversity, enhanced common spaces and even open the door to shared sustainability infrastructure.
Similar to a strata scheme, the newly introduced community title scheme entrusts lot owners with shared ownership and responsibility for common areas on the property.
Community title schemes differ from strata schemes by allowing the subdivision of a single piece of land into up to three tiers of schemes called community titles schemes. Strata titles, by contrast, allow only one scheme to be created on a single parcel of freehold land.
Introduced to the state through the Community Titles Act 2018, these schemes are already used in other states and territories. In NSW, for example, complex multiuse projects such as The New Rouse Hill in the Hills District in Sydney are underpinned by a community scheme.
“Community Titles has been in effect for many years in other states and the type of projects that are delivered under the schemes is quite amazing,” Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA WA) chief executive officer Tanya Steinbeck said.
Ms Steinbeck said that the new land tenure can relieve the financial burden of community infrastructure upkeep on councils, allowing developers to offer better amenities.
“Rather than vesting those facilities to the local government to manage into the future, a community scheme can be established so that a separate management body is created and home owners pay a special levy, like strata levies, for the upkeep of that common property,” Ms Steinbeck said.
This might be in the form of extra landscaping, parks or even sustainability infrastructure such as water recycling that local governments cannot usually afford to maintain.
Community schemes are also more flexible and suitable for complex mixed-use developments.
“Community schemes can more seamlessly manage a range of uses, such as shops, cafés, offices, residential properties and recreational facilities,” Lands Minister Tony Buti said.
According to the WA government, the new tenure type is also a “fair and targeted approach to common property ownership” and will allow people to contribute only to the common property they use.
Under community schemes, it’s easier to separate management and responsibility for different aspects of the project. In a multi-storey mixed-use project, for example, there might be a principle management company that looks after the lifts and other shared spaces on the residential and commercial floors and another management company for retail on the bottom floor.
“The flexibility afforded by community schemes will change the urban landscape by giving investors, owners and tenants the choice and autonomy they seek,” Planning Minister Rita Saffioti said.
“Together with the strong leadership we are providing through planning reform to deliver greater housing diversity, community schemes are another tool that will help drive innovation.”