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  • Writer's pictureDavid

NSW Government announces intention to introduce new medium density housing SEPP

The NSW Government has announced an intention to a facilitate greater diversity of homes like residential flat buildings of 3-6 storeys, terraces, townhouses, duplexes and smaller 1-2 storey apartment blocks in suburbs where they are not currently allowed.

A formal draft of the State Environmental Planning Policy that will facilitate these changes has not yet been released, although according to the government's statement, it will include the following:

  • dual occupancies (two separate homes on a single lot), such as duplexes, to be permitted in all R2 low density residential zones across all of NSW.

  • terraces, townhouses and two storey apartment blocks to be allowed near transport hubs and town centres in R2 low density residential zones across the Greater Sydney region, Hunter, Central Coast and Illawarra (the Six Cities region).

  • mid-rise apartment blocks to be allowed near transport hubs and town centres in R3 medium density zones and appropriate employment zones. This will mean more housing just a short 10-minute walk (800m) from transport hubs, shops and amenities.

Once introduced, the State Environmental Planning Policy would likely be taken to override the Local Environmental Plan for the area, unless these forms of development were already permitted.

There currently appears little information on the timing of when this policy will formally be introduced.


In many respects, building new housing within existing residential areas rather than on farmland on the edge of the city makes a lot of sense.

To take the example of my home town of Campbelltown, 76.8% of the housing stock are single dwelling houses, whereas the number of residents per household has been declining for decades. 19.8% of households contain only one resident while another 28% contain only two persons. These smaller households are less suited to the over-provision of detached dwelling houses and a more diverse housing stock containing more smaller dwellings makes sense.

For Australia as a whole, in 1911 the average household size was 4.5 people. As recently as the 1960s, it was around 3.5 and has now fallen to around 2.5.

The below image shows land in close proximity to Macquarie Fields railway station on the suburban rail network. The type of housing is overwhelmingly large dwelling houses on large blocks of land.

Source - NSW Government, SIX Maps

This is perhaps unsurprising when one looks at the planning controls that apply to this land.

Almost all of the develop-able land around the train station is zoned R2 Low Density Residential, with residential flat buildings and multi dwelling housing being prohibited land uses.

Source - NSW Government, Department of Customer Service

While dual occupancies are notionally permitted, these are largely on lots that are only above 700sqm. As few lots are above this size, this has the effect of prohibiting almost everything that is not a single dwelling house on a block of land.

(Curiously, when one goes to land on the edge of the city such as Menangle Park or Gilead, where development is being led by large corporations, one finds zoning that permits a much wider range of housing on smaller lots, even though these locations are much further from services and regular public transport facilities).

For local government, facilitating new residential development in existing areas has many financial benefits for ratepayers including far lower long terms costs in the maintenance of roads and storm water drainage assets compared to the cost of accepting dedication of new ones in locations of suburban sprawl.

This is similarly the case for state government with Sydney Water in water and sewerage costs, with this being one of the few remaining public assets at state government level that has not been sold off. Greater patronage on the railway network has the effect of improving the level of cost recovery for running these services.

The intention behind this policy of the NSW Government makes a lot of sense for local government, state government and society as a whole and we await further details of the policy once it is formally introduced or exhibited.

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