Lots of solutions are being touted around to solve the unprecedented housing crisis. Inclusionary zoning is one of them. It’s not a new concept, even in Brisbane.

West End in the 1980s

“An ugly mountain of high-rises”

In 2001, then Planning Chair and Deputy Mayor Tim Quinn attempted to introduce modest inclusionary zoning provisions for specific precincts in Brisbane. These were areas where property owners were benefiting from significant rezonings, as large parcels of industrial or warehousing land were being rezoned for high density residential development. It would have only affected these parts of the city, would require 5% of the floor space or its equivalent value for affordable housing.[i]

The provisions were to be mandatory. In West End, the inclusionary zoning requirement would have applied to the land west of Montague Road.[ii] Because the new plan would allow increased densities, some developers opted to be assessed under the draft plan and paid a levy to council for affordable housing.[iii]

The area was to be zoned for 5 storey buildings. Locals in West End mounted a campaign against the rezoning, with one quoted in the Courier Mail (18 January 2002) to say that it would be “an ugly mountain of high-rises along our riverfront”.

Local Push (precursor to the West End Community Association) opposed the plan, stating that density would mean “a more affluent population, double the traffic, loss of workplaces and local industry, loss of affordable community space and a fundamental change of relationship between the existing community and our stretch of the river.” Locals would only support two to three storeys along the river[iv]and undertook a community design process to outline their vision for the area.

Tim Quinn, local councillor for the area but also the Planning Chair, was in a tough position. He tried to convince the community that concentrating apartment building development to the area west of Montague Road, while also including mandatory affordable housing, would help preserve the area’s character. At the time, he stated “…I have been in this job since 1985, I have always taken into account strongly the interests of my constituents, and that is why this local plan contains some really strong initiatives from council in terms of character protection.[v] The same plan sought to protect 1200 pre-war houses by rezoning them from low-medium density (allows for townhouses and walk-up apartments) to character residential, to maintain the ‘tin and timber’ character of the West End area.

The Beattie (ALP) Government refused to amend the legislation to allow council to levy developers for a contribution to affordable housing.[vi] Pressure from the development industry lobby groups as well as community sentiment towards density have been cited as reasons for the decision.[vii] The Housing Minister Robert Schwarten was quoted as saying it was “just not going to fly”, that the proposal was “too selective”. Developer lobby groups applauded the state government’s decision.[viii] Brisbane City Council found out that the state had quashed their affordable housing plans in a media release.

Tim Quinn lost the 2004 election to Campbell Newman (LNP). Many residents (over 40,000 of them, or 9% of total votes) exhausted their votes by not preferencing. The number of dwellings in West End increased from 2,841 in 2001 to 7,579 in 2021.

Lessons from Montague Road

Should the community have rallied behind the original 5-storey plan? Probably. Hindsight is 20/20. Even Graham Quirk’s 2014 Kurilpa Point Plan for an additional 11,000 residents looks modest compared to the 2023 version, which effectively doubles the number of dwellings proposed 10 years’ ago. It doesn’t even compare to what was being proposed in early 2000s.

Are there other areas of the city with good infrastructure that don’t get inundated by floodwaters? Certainty. Did Tim Quinn try to introduce modest increases to density there too? He sure did.

Tim Quinn was marched to community meeting after community meeting to be yelled at by Brisbane ratepayers, in high school halls from Holland Park to Wilston, trying to convince the residents of a sprawling city that an unprecedented crisis loomed.


[i] Heywood, L. (2002). Battle for West End heats up over units. The Courier Mail, 18 January 2002.

[ii] Smith, K. 2001. Council pushes for affordable urban housing. The Courier Mail, 19 September 2001.

[iii] Wardill, S. (2002). Project aids people on low incomes. The Courier Mail, 16 September 2002.

[iv] Southern News (2002). Push against rezoning. 16 May 2002.

[v] Heywood, L. (2002). Battle for West End heats up over units. The Courier Mail, 18 January 2002.

[vi] City News (2003). Levy plan quashed. 13 March 2003.

[vii] City News (2003). Levy plan quashed. 13 March 2003.

[viii] Heywood, L. (2003). Council shelves plans for affordable homes. The Courier Mail, 2 April 2003.

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