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Further details released of changes to allow more low and mid-rise housing

The NSW Government has released further details of a policy intended to create low and mid-rise housing. The link can be found here.


The explanation of intended effect outlines the following proposed changes:


  • Residential flat buildings are proposed to be permitted on all medium density residential zoned land within the six cities region and within 800m walking distance of a heavy rail, metro or light rail station, or 800m walking distance of land zoned E2 Commercial Centre or SP5 Metropolitan Centre or land within 800m walking distance of land zoned E1 Local Centre or MU1 Mixed Use, but only if the zone contains a wide range of frequently needed good and services such as full line supermarkets, shops and restaurants.

  • A set of non-refusal standards would be established for residential flat buildings in the above zones, which would make it more difficult for local Councils to refuse such proposals (or for their refusals to be upheld in Court). It is proposed to provide a non-refusal standard of maximum height 21m for residential flat buildings within 400m of stations/centres and a maximum floor space ratio of 3:1. Between 400m and 800m of stations and centres, it is proposed to establish a maximum height of 16m and a maximum FSR of 2:1

  • It is proposed to remove requirements for minimum site area and width for the above developments that may currently be found in the Local Environmental Plan for the area.

  • The government has announced an intention to vary the Apartment Design Guide to support the above changes.

  • It is proposed to make multi dwelling housing and manor houses permitted in the Low Density Residential zoned land within the six cities region and within 800m walking distance of a heavy rail, metro or light rail station, or 800m walking distance of land zoned E2 Commercial Centre or SP5 Metropolitan Centre or land within 800m walking distance of land zoned E1 Local Centre or MU1 Mixed Use, but only if the zone contains a wide range of frequently needed good and services such as full line supermarkets, shops and restaurants.

  • A set of non-refusal standards would also be established for the above which would make it more difficult for local Councils to refuse such proposals (or for their refusals to be upheld in Court). The standards for multi dwelling housing are maximum height 9.5m, maximum FSR 0.7:1, minimum site area 600sqm, minimum lot width 12m, minimum one car parking space per dwelling. There are other standards for terraces and manor houses.

  • It is proposed to permit dual occupancies across all low density residential zones across NSW.

  • It is proposed to introduce non-refusal standards for dual occupancies of maximum height 9.5m, maximum FSR 0.65:1, minimum site area 450sqm, minimum lot width 12m and minimum one car parking space per dwelling.


Discussion and analysis


The proposed changes (if enacted) are likely to make residential flat buildings, multi dwelling housing and dual occupancies much more feasible within existing metropolitan areas.


While these uses often may notionally be permitted in a particular zone, they are often defacto prohibited by other Council controls such as minimum lot sizes or minimum site width. For example, most of Campbelltown has a minimum lot size of 700sqm for dual occupancies, whereas there are very few lots above this size within the area. The net effect, therefore is to prohibit anything other than a single dwelling on a block of land for much of the area.


It would now be possible to build a dual occupancy on basically any residential zoned lot at least 450sqm in area and 12m wide. It will also be much easier to build higher density developments near railway stations and town centres.


The changes are also a continuation of a long term trend by state government to relegate the role of local Council's in planning for their areas. One of the objectives of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act is "to promote the sharing of the responsibility for environmental planning and assessment between the different levels of government in the State".


The original Act did ultimately provide for the Minister to sign off/approve or refuse a Local Environmental Plan for an area and there was always the power for the state to introduce state-wide policies or call-in Development Applications from Councils, however there is now FAR less ability for elected Council's to plan for their areas and to stop development proposals that are not inconsistent with state government policies.


Council's may still be able to enact some controls in their Development Control Plan or Local Environmental Plan concerning the above development types, although they will be limited in scope due to the breadth of non-refusal standards that the government is planning to introduce. Similarly, the state apartment design guide will continue to apply to residential flat buildings.


There is no mention of whether the newly permitted dual occupancies or multi dwelling housing could proceed as Complying Development, although if this were allowed, a majority of these proposals would bypass local government entirely, with a private certifier being able to approve them.


Taking into account the federal government's mass immigration policy, policies that tend to allow nothing but single dwelling houses on blocks of land tend to deliver a lot of housing product such as this. Note that the main relationship that this structure has with the surrounding environment is via it's cars/garage:



Most of these structures must be by necessity in locations such as previous farm land, forest etc. away from centres and good transport since there is not a surplus of undeveloped land in NSW taking into account the rising population caused by large immigration.


Arguably, there are no less impacts associated with this (a dual occupancy) compared to the single dwelling, the only real difference being a shared wall:



It could quite easily be argued that something like this (multi dwelling housing) contains no less actual environmental impacts provided that good design is achieved. It can actually present a better outcome.



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