Planning reforms to fast track
low & medium density

NSW Government challenges Councils to “go further than” the Government’s new policy – allowing 112,000 new homes.

On 23 November 2023 the State of New South Wales announced planning changes that it claims will fast-track a greater diversity of low and medium density housing where it is not currently allowed.

Councils all have different planning rules for new homes. The Government’s announcement observes that “these rules do not allow the types of homes that we need for the next generation, housing close to transport, infrastructure and social amenity”.

In support:

  • 30 of 32 Councils do not permit low density housing (Zone R2) – homes like residential flat buildings of 3-6 storeys, terraces, townhouses, duplexes and smaller 1-2 storey apartment blocks.
  • 60% of Council’s across Sydney prohibit medium density residential housing (Zone R3) – when in Sydney the State government has declared such housing “is appropriate and should be encouraged”.

The Government’s changes will allow:

  • dual occupancies (two separate homes on a single lot), such as duplexes, in all R2 low density residential zones across all of NSW;
  • terraces, townhouses and two storey apartment blocks 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); and
  • mid-rise apartment blocks 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.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said:

‘We’re confronting a housing crisis so we need to change the way we’re plan for more housing, we can’t keep building out we need to create capacity for more infill, with more diverse types of homes’.

The Government will introduce a State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) to enact these changes while simultaneously encouraging councils to add these types of dwellings to their own planning rules. If a local government’s planning rules match – or go further than – this new NSW Government policy, the State Government changes will not apply.

The State’s estimate is that its changes will create capacity for 112,000 new homes across the Greater Sydney region, Hunter, Central Coast and Illawarra-Shoalhaven. This is 30% of the number needed by NSW to meet its Housing Accord target of 377,000 new homes by 2029. National Housing Accord targets were set at the National Cabinet with all three levels of Government represented.


Authored by Brendan Maier, Partner, Colin Biggers & Paisley Lawyers

4 Dec 2023


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