Changing Melbourne’s ‘lanescape’

Changing Melbourne’s ‘lanescape’


The inner west of Melbourne has experienced unprecedented growth over the past 10 years, with suburbs such as Williamstown, Yarraville and Seddon all recording significant increases in sale prices and new higher quality development.

This previously ignored area of Melbourne is now home to young families and professional couples, making the move to inner city suburbs of similar distance to the CBD as Hawthorn, Kew and Camberwell without the hefty price tag.

As the younger generation flocks to the area, the amenity has also increased, with a number of popular cafés and restaurants establishing themselves in a precinct that continues to thrive.

Independently, the Seddon market has experienced five per cent growth in the past six years alone, however many of the properties in this area are family homes, or newer developments consisting of one-bedroom apartments, leaving a significant gap in the market for small family homes and townhouse type living.

All across Melbourne, there are more than 500 kilometres of laneways. These are the roads built behind our homes in inner city suburbia, previously used for waste collection, that now lay barren – cobblestone ways lined with garage doors and temporary fencing. Seddon is one such suburb that’s breaking the mould of ignoring this space, and taking full advantage of this prime real estate.

For families with grown children still living at home, to couples renting in the inner city that are looking to buy affordably, the laneway house concept is a game changer. Rather than moving to the outer suburbs, where five-bedroom houses are the norm but amenity is short, laneway housing seeks to take advantage of areas where public transport, shops and schools already exist, creating dense housing in established areas that’s affordable and provides a lifestyle buyers are accustomed to.

The idea of laneway housing isn’t new. In Canada, our friends at Lanefab have been working on the concept for a number of years, not only providing affordable housing, but aiming to build homes that operate sustainably, are carbon neutral or offer a net zero dwelling.

The designs for the homes are about making best use of space, and ensuring the dwelling can give back to its environment. Solar panels and water tanks are standard inclusions that add value to the home, the area, and the planet.

By tapping into the research that has been undertaken in Canada, we in Melbourne can reap the benefits of this innovative style of housing. Building on the laneway will soon become as common as subdividing the quarter acre block in middle suburbia.


With an average house price of $700,000, Seddon is ripe for laneway development. A project we’re currently working on in Emma Street saw the buyer purchase a 175-square-metre block for $400,000, with an estimated build cost for the two, two-bedroom dwellings of under $500,000, the potential profit on sale could be as high as $350,000. There are a number of similar projects in the area and Middle Footscray station is mere minutes away. The main street of Seddon with all of its cafés and restaurants is also within walking distance.

The laneway home is designed as an alternative to traditional high-rise apartment living, giving residents the flexibility of a home with street frontage whose footprint remains small. For families with established homes that back onto a laneway, the opportunity to build a laneway home may provide a smaller dwelling for retirement, or for adult children to reside.

The simple principles that a laneway house embodies means the barriers to entry are low and the rewards high. A block with as little as a five-metre street frontage can be used to create a home that provides a family with the inner city lifestyle at a fraction of the cost of established housing. It’s about creating space and reducing energy.


The following extract is a blog article about the progress of development of the Seddon laneway.

Sarah_KempsonBy Sarah Kempson

Building a house is a journey. An exciting, albeit sometimes stressful, journey – but it doesn’t have to be.

My partner and I embarked on this adventure late last year. With a desire to build a future for ourselves, property development seemed a logical choice and we explored our options.

Having first spoken with the bank about how much we could borrow, our foray into the market took us to Seddon, a small up and coming suburb in the west, where laneway development is taking off, and the community is made up of young families and retirees.

Our chosen spot had been on the market for a while, a 176sqm block on Emma Street, and at a price of $400,000 could be developed to meet the ‘Rule of Three’ philosophy that Lanescape work by. It’s a simple theory, but finding the right site that meets an equal purchase, develop and sale price is very difficult in practice.

The offer was made, accepted and signed in the space of three days. The exciting part had begun.

With settlement due in March, the team began the architectural work and council requirements as to expedite the process.

Completing the ‘homework sheet’ allowed us to shape our thinking about what we wanted the homes to achieve. Were they to be designed for students, couples, young families or someone else? My partner and I agreed on some things, and disagreed on others.

This point is an important time to pause to ensure you’re putting into the brief everything you ultimately want the properties to be. Unnecessary changes (and expense!) can be avoided if you spend more time and energy on this step.

The project is moving quickly through town planning but that’s a story for next time.


About Breece Geveaux

Breece Geveaux is the Director of Pillar+Post.
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