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Low and Mid-Rise Housing Reform

Considering the current housing climate in NSW, the State Government is introducing more reforms to help NSW meet or exceed the goals set in the 2022 National Housing Accord.

The State Government, from April this year, intends to alter development restrictions in certain residential zones. This is to expand the amount and type of developments that can be accepted for low and mid-rise density housing in locations they were previously barred.

Development is influenced by local government LEPs (Local Environmental Plans) and DCPs (Development Control Plans), which restrict the areas that low and mid-rise residential buildings can be developed. In certain areas of Sydney and the Six Cities Region, this has resulted in swaths of residential areas that do not allow for the development of multi dwelling homes such as duplexes, terraces/townhouses, manor houses, and residential flat buildings.

Of the 12% of council areas that are Medium Density Residential zones, 60% of those zones do not allow for residential flats. In Greater Sydney alone, 94% of councils do not allow for any multi-dwelling housing in their low density zones (R2). It is in these areas that the State Government reforms will come in to ease the pressure on the housing market. The current proposal by the Department of Planning and Environment is to allow residential flat buildings to be built on all Medium Density Residential zoned land so long as they are within the Six Cities Region and also within 800 metres walking distance of either a train station, a Commercial or Metropolitan centre, or have fair access to goods, services, and amenities. These well-located areas are to be called Station and Town Centre Precincts.

Further, the State Government proposes new “non-refusal” standards – where if types of development are compliant with such a standard, they cannot be refused on those grounds. As these are to be implemented under a State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), they can overrule Local Environmental Plans or Development Control Plans. The proposed new non-refusal standards for mid-rise developments (residential flat buildings and shop-top housing) and low-rise development (manor houses, dual occupancies and multi dwelling housing such as terraces/townhouses) in Station and Town Centre Precincts provide a standard maximum building height, maximum floor space ratio, minimum required site areas and lot widths, and minimum number of car parking spaces, based on a maximum distance of 400 to 800 metres away from the stations and town centres. For these reasons a development meeting these requirements cannot be refused on the grounds of a more restrictive LEP or DCP control or standard; however if other building requirements are not met, the development can still be refused.

Introducing TOD

TOD (Transit Oriented Development program) is a plan to deliver additional high and mid-rise housing around transport hubs. The program intends to deliver about 185 000 homes over the next 15 years, in two parts:

Part 1 involves eight rail and metro stations selected for their capacity for growth. These eight stations are Bankstown, Bays West, Bella Vista, Crows Nest, Homebush, Hornsby, Kellyville, and Macquarie Park. Land up to 1.2km away from these centres are to be rezoned to enable high rise residential developments or mid and low-rise developments, depending on proximity.

Part 1 also allows for a new SSD (State Significant Development) fast tracked assessment pathway. Developments lodged before November 2027 and meeting a Capital Investment Value threshold of $60 million will have the opportunity to be considered an SSD application to be coordinated through a dedicated assessment team, and the Department of Planning and Environment intends for approvals to be considered within a 90 day time period.

The State Government has also committed $520 million for critical road upgrades, active transport links, and other public space items in these eight rail and metro station areas.

Part 2 involves 31 stations and metros that already have the infrastructure for residential development and involves implementing a new SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) specific to these areas. Within 400 metres of these stations and town centres, urban residential zones (R1 – R4) and local and commercial centres (E1 and E2) will allow for the construction of residential apartment buildings. E1 and E2 zones will also allow for shop-top housing. The new TOD reforms are to be even more permissive than the low and mid-rise housing reform.

Surry Hills townhouses

Both Parts will allow designers to use the Apartment Design Guide and with it an accelerated approval pathway if they choose to do so. The TOD program is also applicable to heritage conservation areas, with restrictions.

The low and mid-rise housing reforms are on exhibition until 23 February 2024and the new Transport Oriented Development SEPP is scheduled to take effect in April 2024. If you have any questions about the proposed changes or starting your development, you can send us an enquiry here.

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