Shelter NSW submissions on Housing Diversity and Design and Place SEPPs

Shelter NSW Submission on the ‘Housing Diversity SEPP’ 

Last month, Shelter NSW lodged a submission on the Department of Planning’s new Housing Diversity SEPP

The HD-SEPP—State Environmental Planning Policy—facilitates the supply of particular types of housing by expanding options for where they can be built, offering incentives such as extra floor space and providing special approval pathways.

The new SEPP consolidates a number of existing instruments that were intended to increase the supply of both (private) low-cost housing and (regulated) affordable housing. In this regard, it makes some positive changes to the regulation of boarding houses by distinguishing them from co-living and student housing as a specific form of affordable housing. It also retains provisions that allow councils to prepare inclusionary housing schemes. However, its primary focus is on Built-to-Rent—a better form of private rental housing but not one that is likely to include affordable housing except where it is developed by community housing providers.

The key point here is that the SEPP is not a commitment by government to build more affordable housing but rather a way of making it easier for others to do so. As such, our submission asks that the SEPP be linked to a broader strategy to increase supply in specific and measurable terms. In turn, privileges afforded by the planning system should be reserved for non-profit providers and outcomes should be closely monitored. Read our full submission here.

Shelter NSW submission on the ‘Design and Place SEPP’

Shelter has also lodged a submission on the Design and Place SEPP as part of ongoing consultation with the NSW Government Architect. 

Whereas the Housing Diversity SEPP regulates the supply of particular types of housing, the Design and Place SEPP will regulate the quality of all housing, as well as other forms of development.

Like the HD-SEPP, the Design and Place SEPP will consolidate a number of existing planning instruments, notably SEPP 65 which regulates the design of apartment buildings and BASIX which regulates building sustainability. Its aim is to improve the design quality of the built environment and not just at the building scale but, laudably, at the street and neighbourhood scales too.

However, in doing so the SEPP signals a shift to a ‘principle-based system’. This is potentially a red flag as it implies a reduced role for minimum standards that provide a baseline level of amenity to future residents. Our submission as such calls for their retention and an alternative review pathway for more flexible and innovative designs. We have also taken the much welcome opportunity to highlight ways to improve planning for social infrastructure and family-friendly apartments. The SEPP will be released in 2021. Read our full submission here.