The State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP) allows home owners to develop property without lodging development applications with Council where the development is classified either as exempt, requiring no consent, or complying, requiring certification from an accredited certifier or Council.
On Friday 16 June 2017, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment introduced this simplified Housing Code to replace the General Housing Code alongside other minor reforms to the Codes SEPP. These changes took affect from Monday 17 July 2017.
The Housing Code in Part 3 of the Codes SEPP replaces the previous General Housing Code. The Housing Code identifies complying development standards to be met by single or double storey dwelling houses and facilitates a quicker and cheaper evaluation process for small developments bypassing the need for development applications.
The New Housing Code
The former General Housing Code was structured to identify the types of houses which may be considered complying and then established standards which applied to each of these types of houses. The difference between the old and new codes is in relation to the form of the standards rather than any significant change as to the substance of these standards.
The format is changed via the use of diagrams and tables which provide greater clarity as to how and where the development standards apply. Minor changes to the substance of the standards appear to be an attempt to simplify them.
For example, clause 3.10 of the General Housing Code, in relation to maximum floor area for all buildings other than outbuildings, provided:
The total floor area of a dwelling house, detached studio, basement and any secondary dwelling on a lot must not be more than the following:
(a) if the lot has an area of at least 200m2 but not more than 250m2—90% of the area of the lot,
(b) if the lot has an area of more than 250m2 but not more than 300m2—85% of the area of the lot,
(c) if the lot has an area of more than 300m2 but not more than 450m2—270m2,
(d) if the lot has an area of more than 450m2 but not more than 600m2—330m2,
(e) if the lot has an area of more than 600m2 but not more than 900m2—380m2,
(f) if the lot has an area of more than 900m2—430m2.
Note. A secondary dwelling is complying development specified under State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009.
The equivalent provision in the new Housing Code, clause 3.9 relating to maximum gross floor area of all buildings, provides:
(1) The maximum gross floor area of all buildings on a lot is shown in the following table:
Image sourced from the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (exempt and complying development codes) 2008 – Reg 3.9
(2) When calculating the lot size of a battle-axe lot, the area of the access laneway is excluded.Image sourced from the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (exempt and complying development codes) 2008 – Reg 3.9
Note. Battle-axe lot and gross floor area are defined in clause 1.5.
This standard exemplifies how minor changes to the substance of the development standards have been made in order to simplify the standard. Noticeably the table and diagrams provide clarity in how the development standards are applied.
Another example is clause 3.13 of the previous General Housing Code which provided the standard in relation to building heights as follows:
(1) The height of a dwelling house or the alterations and additions to an existing dwelling house must not be more than 8.5m above ground level (existing).
(2) The height of an outbuilding or the alterations and additions to an existing outbuilding on a lot must not be more than 4.8m above ground level (existing).
The equivalent provision in the new Housing Code, clause 3.8, provides the same standard but inserts a diagram to explain how this standard is calculated:
The maximum height for a dwelling house and any attached development is 8.5m above ground level (existing).
Note 1. Attached development and dwelling house are defined in clause 1.5.
Note 2. Ground level (existing) is defined in the Standard Instrument as the existing level of a site at any point.
Image sourced from the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (exempt and complying development codes) 2008 – Reg 3.8
Separately, at clause 3.18, the new Housing Code provides a maximum height for any detached development (as opposed to just outbuildings) of 4.5m above ground level (existing).Image sourced from the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (exempt and complying development codes) 2008 – Reg 3.8
The below table reviews where the provisions from the General Housing Code have been addressed in the new Housing Code. It is clear that all the same standards and issues have been covered by both Codes but in a different format and layout.
|General Housing Code (previous)||Housing Code (current)|
|Division 1 Development that is complying development under this code||Division 1 Requirements for complying development under this code|
|Division 1A Removal or pruning of trees||Division 5 Development standards for associated works including earthworks, retaining walls, drainage, protection of walls, protections of trees and conditions under complying development certificates|
|Division 2 Development Standards for this code||Division 3 Development standards for dwelling houses and attached development
Division 4 Development standards for detached development
Division 5 Development standards for associated works including earthworks, retaining walls, drainage, protection of walls, protections of trees and conditions under complying development certificates
|Subdivision 9 Development standards for particular land (i.e. bush fire prone land and flood prone land)||Division 2 General standards relating to land type|
|Division 3 Conditions applying to complying development certificates under this code||Division 5 Development standards for associated works including earthworks, retaining walls, drainage, protection of walls, protections of trees and conditions under complying development certificates|
The new Housing Code does not change the process for applying for a complying development certificate. Rather the Housing Code provides greater precision in the rules and definitions previously outlined in the General Housing Code. The main change with the new Housing Code is in its provision of diagrams and tables which clearly identify the dwelling types, based on lot shape and position, as well as clarifying how the development standards apply. The standards are also simplified, applying one standard to a variety of types of properties/land (such as one standard for a range of lot sizes rather than different standards for all different lot sizes).
By providing diagrams and tables the new Housing Code establishes complying development standards which are easier to apply and understand for home owners and developers as well as for the certifiers and councils assessing the proposal. The aim is to encourage reliance on the complying development certification system ensuring approval for development is quicker, cheaper and easier for all parties involved.
However, whether it will result in better development and design that takes into account the site characteristics is yet to be seen.
This article was written by Jane Hewitt, Partner and Alex Epstein, Graduate.