NSW council areas filled with standalone homes will be forced to allow more terraces, duplexes, walk-up flats and semis under sweeping changes by the Minns government designed to increase density and ease the housing crisis.
The plan to inject up to 112,000 new homes into infill suburbs in and around Sydney won the immediate support of planners and developers on Tuesday, but is expected to meet fierce response from councils, especially ones demanding improvements in infrastructure to support population growth.
“It’s a matter of saying, if you want us to come to the table, then you need to come to the table too,” Woollahra councillor Sarah Swan told The Australian Financial Review.
Sydney terrace houses: the heart of the Minns government’s plan to bring 112,000 new homes to the city and surrounding areas Brendon Thorne
“Until the state government provides better infrastructure – not just train stations and transport – but genuine improvements in sewers, basic utilities, and provisions for more public schools and schools spaces, there’s huge pressure [for local councils].”
Under the plan unveiled on Tuesday, local councils controlling low-density residential areas – known as R2 zones – will have no choice but to allow terraces, duplexes, and other medium-density housing. Other residential areas within 800 metres of shops and jobs will be rezoned to allow flats of up to six storeys.
The changes will generate more than 110,000 new homes and revive Sydney’s “missing middle”, Planning Minister Paul Scully said.
“Terraces and townhouses have been part and parcel of Sydney’s housing past. They’ve been restricted, and now we want to make them part and parcel of Sydney’s housing future,” said Mr Scully, who aims to build 376,000 homes in the next five years to meet under its Housing Accord target.
“This is making sure that we’ve got opportunities near to people where people grew up, so the kids can live near their parents rather than having to continue to live with their parents … This is about making sure that there’s opportunities for housing in the next generation.”
The changes, which mark the government’s biggest step to date to solve planning issues acting as a handbrake on the state’s housing supply, are expected to trigger a fierce response from local councils but have been welcomed by industry.
“These are tried and true and tested forms of housing that communities accept. For too long councils have been far too unwilling to accept new people into their area,” said David Borger, Housing NOW director and chief executive of Business Western Sydney.
“This is the biggest mass rezoning that we’ve undertaken in decades so it’s going to get everyone’s interest.”
Katie Stevenson, the Property Council of Australia’s NSW executive director, applauded the plan.
“For too long, you’ve only had a choice between a quarter acre block or an apartment building. This means that in more local communities, families will have that option to be able to live in the areas that they want to live close to shops, close to public transport in a type of housing that best meets their needs,” she said.
The changes also affect medium-density or R3-zoned areas within 10 minutes’ walk of jobs and public transport, where new planning rules will allow apartment buildings of up to six storeys.
Currently, fewer than half of councils across NSW allow for low and mid-rise residential buildings in areas zoned for such homes. Mr Scully said the changes enabled the government to confront a housing crisis by creating capacity for more infill and more diverse types of homes.
Mr Scully pointed to Sydney suburbs including Wollstonecraft, Waverton and Erskineville, where terraces sit side-by-side with duplexes, walk-up flats and higher-density apartment buildings, all within walking distance of shops and multiple forms of public transport as a blueprint of what government planners are aiming for.
Under the proposed changes, planning rules will be rewritten to allow dual occupancies – two separate homes on a single lot – in all R2 low-density residential zones across NSW. In R2 zones close to transport and town centres, the new rules will pave the way for terraces, townhouses and two-storey apartment blocks.
In well-located, R3 medium density zones within 800 metres or a 10-minute walk from shops, jobs and transport hubs, the new rules will allow medium-rise apartment blocks of up to six storeys.
Each local council across NSW currently has its own rules for what kind of homes can be built in different areas. In many cases, across Sydney, the Central Coast and Illawarra region, this specifically rules out flats, duplexes and semis from being built in R2 or low-density housing zones, and flats in R3 zones.
Sixty per cent of R3 zones across Sydney – areas the government deems to be best suited to multi-dwelling housing – currently prohibit new-build flats of any size. Just two local councils in Sydney allow terraces, duplex and semis in R2-zoned areas.
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