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Marty McDonald - Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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NSW Medium Density Housing Code

Commencing July 6th a new housing code will commence in NSW that aims to increase the amount of medium-density housing in Sydney from its current 10 percent share of new approvals. This will be alongside a new Low Rise Medium Density Design Guide, which was developed by the department of planning and environment in consultation with the NSW government architects in 2017.

The new code will allow one and two-storey dual occupancies, manor houses and terraces to be carried out under a fast-track complying development approval provided the property is located in an area zoned for medium density and complies with the design guide of the code.

This means rather than potentially waiting months and months for local council approval developments that are within the new medium density housing categories will take a maximum of 20 days for approval and certification.

The design guide aims to improve the design of medium density housing through the employment of standards to address key considerations including 'layout, landscaping, private open space, light, natural ventilation and privacy'.  The guide was in part informed by the Missing Middle design competition held by the governments' architect office in early 2017.

According to the state government, these changes address what they call the “missing middle” of NSW property. Medium density housing is both affordable and more sustainable. The new code will allow more efficiencies and increase housing supply and overall housing affordability in key areas. Further, medium density housings’ two-storey height limit ensures the preservation of existing neighborhood character.

The new code has received both positive and negative responses from local councils with Ryde councilor Roy Maggio condemning the code in his statement that "Aussie backyards are being turned into medium-density slums". A bit hyperbolic perhaps? Alternatively, the Illawarra branch of the Property Council says new housing codes will allow high-quality homes to be built more quickly in the right places throughout NSW.

It’s clear that increased population in certain areas come with certain challenges that need to be addressed. This includes road congestion, pollution and higher demand for services such as schools. As such, councils must keep up with increasing demand for new infrastructure development to enable these planning changes to work successfully.

To see if your property or a prospective property can benefit from these changes type in the address on the NSW planning portal and use the mapping overlays. R3 zoning is medium density in most areas.

Update* 25/05/18

Following an exemption for Ryde and Canterbury that freezes changes till 2019, eight different councils have sought after exemption this week. This follows concern that the new fast-track solution for medium density housing will lead to further population density without appropriate infrastructure. Mr. Johnson, CEO of the urban taskforce says councils are being "mischievous" in their claims that the new plans open up a "Pandora's Box of new development." The fast-track solution only applies to councils who already permit medium density housing and councils this week have been accused of simply being unprepared in providing the infrastructure needed for their own zoning.  In our research on the new planning code, we've found no evidence to support that the new plans will drastically increase population density and as far as we understand it it's merely a more efficient way to fast-track development that is already permitted under the current code. The new plan to us seems like a reasonable way to address population growth and housing affordability in key areas, tailored to the local environment. Arguably some councils are politicising the plans to gain favor with residents who oppose any change, even ones that are unavoidable.

About the Author: Marty McDonald is principal of mortgage broker “Mortgage Experts”. Marty specialises in assisting active property investors with loan structuring advice and implementation as well as helping credit worthy borrowers with slightly outside the box income and employment situations. Find Marty on  and LinkedIn.

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