Posted on January 9, 2024 by Liam Mulligan and Adrian Guy

Continued: New plans to make Sydney living more diverse & denser

The NSW Government has at last provided some detail of its proposed low and medium-density housing reforms, releasing the “Explanation of Intended Effect” for the proposed changes (‘EoE‘). The EoE is on public exhibition from 15 December 2023 to 23 February 2024.

The stated aim of the plan in summary is to promote an “infill” development strategy to facilitate low and mid-rise housing near established town centres, and areas close to good public transport.

It appears the plan will be implemented through amendments to existing environmental planning instruments.

Planning reforms to come

In a bid to provide immediate relief for the current housing crisis, the NSW Government proposes to implement changes to the permissibility and controls for low- and mid-rise housing across the State, with an emphasis on development throughout the Six Cities Region.

  • “low-rise housing” means multi dwelling housing of 1-2 storeys, including terraces, town houses and manor houses, and dual occupanices
  • “mid-rise housing” as residential flat buildings and shot top housing of 3-6 storeys

The Six Cities Region includes:

  • Lower Hunter and Greater Newcastle City
  • Central Coast City
  • Illawarra-Shoalhaven City
  • Western Parkland City
  • Central River City
  • Eastern Harbour City

Some of the proposed changes will only apply to areas within a “station and town centre precinct” (‘Precinct‘), which is an area within the Six Cities Region and within 800 metres walking distances from:

  • a heavy rail, metro or light rail station, or
  • land zoned E2 Commercial Centre or SP5 Metropolitan Centre, or
  • land zones E1 Local Centre or MU1 Mixed Use, but only if that zone contains a wide range of frequently needed goods and services (i.e., supermarkets, shops and restaurants).

What will change

The proposed planning reforms will primarily involve amendments to:

  • local environmental plans (‘LEPs‘), particularly to those applying across the Six Cities Region, and
  • the Apartment Design Guide (‘ADG‘), which was formerly applied by the now repealed State Environmental Planning Policy No 65—Design Quality of Residential Apartment Development (‘SEPP 65‘).

The amendments include changes to permissibility for specific types of development, the introduction of various “non-refusal standards”, and changes to the specific controls in the ADG.

If proposed development complies with a “non-refusal standard”, the consent authority cannot refuse the development on that ground. Moreover, a clause 4.6 written request for variation need not be prepared for non-compliance with a principal development standard in an LEP where compliance with the non-refusal standard is achieved.

Changes for low-rise housing

Dual occupancies

The NSW Government proposes to make development for the purposes of a “dual occupancy” permissible on all land in R2 low density residential zones across the State.

This includes attached dual occupancies (two dwellings on the same lot that are attached to each other) or detached dual occupancies (two dwellings on the same lot that are not attached, but does not include a secondary dwelling).

The proposed non-refusal standards for dual occupancies include:

  • maximum building height: 9.5 metres
  • maximum floor space ratio: 0.65:1
  • minimum site area: 450m2
  • minimum lot width: 12 metres
  • minimum car parking spaces: 1 per dwelling

Multi dwelling housing

The NSW Government proposes to make development for the purposes of “multi dwelling housing” permissible on land in R2 low density residential zones within a Precinct. Multi dwelling housing includes development comprising three or more dwelling on a single lot of land, with ground level access to each dwelling. This includes terraces and manor houses.

The proposed non-refusal standards for multi dwelling housing include:

  • multi dwelling housing (terraces):
    • maximum building height: 9.5 metres
    • maximum floor space ratio: 0.7:1
    • minimum site area: 500m2
    • minimum lot width: 18 metres
    • minimum car parking spaces: 0.5 per dwelling
  • multi dwelling housing:
    • maximum building height: 9.5 metres
    • maximum floor space ratio: 0.7:1
    • minimum site area: 600m2
    • minimum lot width: 12 metres
    • minimum car parking spaces: 1 per dwelling
  • manor houses:
    • maximum building height: 9.5 metres
    • maximum floor space ratio: 0.8:1
    • minimum site area: 500m2
    • minimum lot width: 12 metres
    • minimum car parking spaces: 1 per dwelling

Changes for mid-rise housing

The proposed changes for mid-rise housing relate specifically to development for the purposes of “residential flat buildings” and “shop top housing”. Residential flat buildings are more commonly known as apartment buildings, and shop top housing is development wherein one or more dwellings are located above a ground floor commercial premises or health services facility.

For development in the inner 400 metres of a Precinct (i.e., within 400 metres walking distance), the proposed non-refusal standards for mid-rise housing include:

  • maximum building height: 21 metres
  • maximum floor space ratio: 3:1

For development in the outer 400 metres of a Precinct (i.e., between 400 and 800 metres walking distance), the proposed non-refusal standards for mid-rise housing include:

  • maximum building height: 16 metres
  • maximum floor space ratio: 2:1

The changes to the ADG will also apply to development for mid-rise housing, and include changes to building separations, setbacks, vehicular access, visual privacy, communal open space, landscaping and car parking.

When will changes take effect

At the conclusion of the exhibition period of the Explanation on 23 February 2024, the NSW Government will consider the submissions it receives before finalising the proposed planning reforms. At this stage, it is expected that the planning reforms will take effect in 2024.

We will publish more details of the planning reforms as it is made available.

Our article on the original announcement of the NSW Government’s plan is here.

If you have any questions in relation to this decision, please leave a comment below or contact Liam Mulligan on 02 8235 9715 or Adrian Guy on 02 8235 9729.