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nsw housing code

Simplifying Housing Approvals

for ExEmpt and Complying dEvElopmEnt


drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

The family home is for most of us an important and precious possession. Home ownership is a privilege and an objective of most Australians. yet our planning system is taking far too long for ordinary homes to be approved. Currently in NSW, the average determination time for most housing approvals is 69 days. There is a simpler way to gain planning approvals for these large numbers of relatively small scale applications called COmPLyINg DeVeLOPmeNT. Complying development has been around for 10 years but last year only 11% of all development across the State was processed in this way. We are aiming to lift this to 50% by establishing a series of uniform housing codes that will be available to all householders across NSW. each code will define an envelope for a typical house on an average sized lot. The envelope will be determined by setbacks and height controls to protect neighbours amenity and preserve streetscape. If your design fits into this envelope then approval should take less than 10 days. We will develop a series of codes for different house types and lot sizes. For those who want to do something different or have a very constrained site the more traditional development application pathway is still available. The NSW government sees this initiative as having a major impact on simplifying the planning system for housing approvals across the State. I urge everyone to read the draft code and provide comments to the Department of Planning.

This guide explains how NSW is introducing new development codes for exempt and complying development. It contains sections on:
SiMPlifYiNg HouSiNg APProvAlS

The need for a simpler system The difference between a code and current planning assessments What is complying development? What is exempt development? What codes are out for public comment?
A NeW HouSiNg code for NSW

Why is the government releasing these codes? How have the codes been prepared? How will these codes relate to existing codes prepared by local councils? Can there be local variations? How will the codes benefit neighbours? What is the timeframe for a complying development certificate?
tHe PriNciPleS of good HouSiNg deSigN

Why design matters Key principles

exAMPleS froM tHe NSW HouSiNg code

New single storey houses on lots of over 600 square metres

WHAt elSe iS iN tHe codeS

exempt development Will the codes cover heritage conservation areas? What future codes will be issued for comment? the Hon. frank Sartor, MP minister for Planning Will neighbours be consulted? Do other States have similar housing codes? copies of the draft NSW Housing code Available from the Information Centre, NSW Department of Planning 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW 2000 or online at www.planning.nsw.gov.au or call 1300 305 695

HAve Your SAY

Send your submission to: Planning Reforms, gPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2001 or email planningreform@planning.nsw.gov.au The closing date for comments is 4 July 2008.

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

Simplifying housing approvals

tHe Need FOR A sIMPLeR sYsteM
The NSW government has recently undertaken a review of the planning system. We are now improving the effectiveness of the system and thereby providing certainty for homeowners by simplifying the assessment process for development. What the community said about the planning system The time taken to process development applications is excessive and unacceptable. The planning system is complex and difficult to follow. The system is not consistent. The Department of Planning produces an annual Performance monitoring Report on development application (DA) assessment times of all NSW local councils. The 2006/07 Report showed that: Small-scale residential development applications (DAs) took an average of 57 days to process, with new single dwellings taking 78 days. About 60 per cent of all DAs determined by councils were for new homes. About 97 per cent of all DAs were valued under $1 million. The 2006/07 findings shows a clogged, inefficient planning system where homeowners are waiting too long for approvals to build homes or renovate.


Complying development requires approval from an accredited certifier or the council acting as a certifying authority. If a proposal meets the complying development criteria laid out in the code, then it can proceed once given sign-off by the certifier or council. Complying development can include new swimming pools, homes or home extensions.

wHAt Is exeMPt deVeLOPMeNt?

exempt development is a form of self-assessed development which can take place without the need for accredited certifier or council approval. For residential properties, it includes typical smallscale items such as pergolas, carports, fences and retaining walls.

wHAt cOdes ARe OUt FOR PUbLIc cOMMeNt?

The following codes are available for public comment until July 4, 2008: New single storey houses on lots over 600 square metres. Single storey housing alterations and additions on lots over 600 square metres. exempt development for residential and rural zones. Internal alterations for two-storey houses. Commercial and industrial exempt development. Commercial and industrial complying development (change of use). These codes cover all parts of NSW.

tHe dIFFeReNce betweeN A cOde ANd cURReNt PLANNING AssessMeNts

most housing in NSW is assessed as a development application which requires a merit assessment. This requires a significant amount of documentation and time to determine whether the proposal has merit. There is an alternative approach to obtaining a development consent, this is to follow the code based assessment path for complying development.

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

A new housing code for NSW

wHY Is tHe GOVeRNMeNt ReLeAsING tHese cOdes?
The NSW government first introduced exempt and complying development in 1997 as an alternative to the lodgement of a formal development application. The idea was to provide a simpler, easier assessment process for small-scale, low-impact proposals. Councils were able to develop their own exempt and complying policies. Since that time, however, the number of development applications has increased by more than two and a half times while usage of complying development has been falling. The NSW government is proposing to increase the percentage of development proposals considered as complying development from 11 per cent to 50 per cent within four years. The codes will help achieve this aim.

HOw wILL tHese cOdes ReLAte tO exIstING cOdes PRePARed bY LOcAL cOUNcILs?
Several NSW councils have introduced wide-ranging complying development codes to maximise the number of developments that can be issued as complying development certificates (CDC). Councils that have achieved more than 50% approvals by CDCs include Cobar Shire, Warrumbungle Shire, Coolamon Shire, Port macquarie-Hastings, Conargo Shire, Junee Shire, murrumbidgee Shire, Coonamble Shire, and Narrabri Shire. These councils achieved between 52% and 66% of all development determinations as complying development. That shows that the use of complying development can assist in the timely processing of small-scale proposals, without undermining local amenity. The NSW Department of Planning is learning from the work done by these councils and is developing a series of codes building on what councils have done. These codes will apply Statewide and replace local council codes.

HOw HAVe tHe cOdes beeN PRePARed?

To encourage greater uptake of complying development across the State a new code is needed that more clearly defines and supports a wider range of low scale housing development. To develop this code, a Complying Development expert Panel has been formed to provide expert advice on the codes. members of the panel have considerable experience in both local government and peak industry organisations.

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008


To ensure a consistent and fair approach to the Housing Code for exempt and Complying Development the government is developing a series of codes for various housing types and lot sizes. In some instances local variation within a Local government Area may be appropriate for street setbacks or side setbacks due to large blocks greater than 600m. There will be potential for variations within the code standards but the number of variations should be kept to a minimum. Compatible variations at the local level will be considered if they can be readily incorporated within the relevant NSW Housing Code. Councils are invited to submit potential local variations to the Complying Development expert Panel during the exhibition period.


The NSW government is proposing that an accredited certifier or the local council must decide whether a proposal fits these design codes within 10 days. This compares to an existing average 78 day wait for decisions on new single dwellings and 57 days for alterations under the existing development application process. The NSW government believes the current planning system is being increasingly flooded with development applications for small-scale projects, which are unnecessarily diverting the resources of councils.

HOw wILL tHe cOdes beNeFIt NeIGHbOURs?

The codes are specifically designed to protect the amenity of neighbours. They control issues such as heights, window placement and the location and construction of balconies and other outdoor areas. The code will also benefit neighbours and new home purchasers by providing greater certainty as to what can be built next door.

single storey houses



two storey houses

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

The principles of good housing design

wHY desIGN MAtteRs
Our neighbourhoods and suburbs across NSW need to have a pleasant and comfortable character where communities have a sense of pride and wellbeing. While these communities want to express their individual character through the design of their own home, there is also a need to ensure precincts and streets develop in ways that are unified and reinforce the overall character of their neighbourhood. It is also important that the amenity of neighbours is protected particularly in relation to privacy and overshadowing. good design of housing can achieve a balance between the individual aspirations of home owners and a sense of cohesion that unifies precincts and neighbourhoods. good design in this context is not just about aesthetic style but more about the principles that lead to quality environments. These principles include streetscape, bulk and scale, setbacks, building elements, privacy, safety and private open space. even detailed issues relating to how garages and driveways present themselves to the street can make a positive contribution to the streetscape if designed well. good design will lead to a sense of pride by all those living in the neighbourhood. The housing codes have been developed using the key principles behind good design. The codes then adopt objective development standards to ensure that these key elements can be achieved. The philosophy behind good design is to ensure that the amenity of neighbours is protected in a manner that leads to good design solutions for the neighbourhood.

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

to maintain and enhance local character of neighbourhoods, especially in established residential areas.

Bulk + ScAle

to maintain a good balance of building forms with neighbours and an appropriate scale to the urban density of the area.


to ensure privacy to dwellings from the street and between neighbours, as well as consistency in how the house addresses the street.

BuildiNg eleMeNtS

to ensure the character of individual houses is articulated by reinforcing entries, overhanging roofs, building articulations and the use of quality materials.

PrivAcY + SAfetY

to protect the private spaces of the home from overlooking and noise, and to provide safety in public spaces.

PrivAte oPeN SPAce

to provide secluded outdoor areas for the amenity and recreation of the residents.

gArAgeS + driveWAYS

to ensure that garages do not dominate the appearance of the house.

SloPiNg SiteS

to protect the natural topography of the site, the ecology of the area and the visual amenity of the streetscape.

eNviroNMeNtAllY SuStAiNABle deSigN

to reduce environmental impact and maximise energy efficiency of homes.

side setbacks to protect solar access

articulation zone, including entry porch, pergola, screens garages and carports set back from building line garage door not dominant feature of facade habitable room window facing the street

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

examples from the NSW Housing Code

New sINGLe stOReY HOUses ON LOts OVeR 600 sQUARe MetRes
This guide gives a sample of some of the elements in the codes. Refer to the full copy of the housing code for a more detailed understanding. Streetscape Streetscape character is a major contributor to the quality of the overall neighbourhood. Streetscapes can vary depending on the relationship between the built form and landscape elements of the street.
example: garage width guidelines

Bulk and scale Building bulk and scale is important in achieving cohesive living environments that preserve amenity within individual dwellings and to neighbouring buildings.
example: Site coverage and roof heights
site cover

6.0m maximum

4.0m maximum

6.0m maximum

Section 2.2 of the code specifies that roof heights Housing Code Illustrations - April 2008 should be no more than 6m. Furthermore, the maximum building site coverage starts at 60 per cent of the lot for 600 square metre lots, falling to 25 per cent for 2,000 square metre lots.
Housing Code Illustrations - April 2008

< 50% buildng width buildng width

primary street

Section 2.1 of the code minimises the visual dominance ofHousing Code Illustrationssetting them back garages by - April 2008 a minimum of 5.5m from the street frontage. Furthermore, a garage door facing the street must not occupy more than 50 per cent of the street frontage and be no more than 6m wide. The garage must be setback at least 1m from the building line.

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

4.0m maximum

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

Setbacks Suitable setbacks between buildings enable separation and allow breaks in between houses. Spaces between buildings assist with protection of privacy and moderate the visual impact of building bulk between adjoining homes.
< 9.0m

Building elements The character of a residential community is influenced by the built form and landscape creating an identity particular to the neighbourhood. Housing should be complimentary to the fabric of neighbouring properties and provide interesting building forms.
example: Articulation zones

example: Side setbacks with major openings

1.7m minimum

Section 2.3 of the code requires walls on side boundaries with major windows to be setback between 1.9m and 2.5m depending on wall height and length. Windows facing neighbours may also Housing Code Illustrations - April 2008 need to be obscured glass or have a minimum sill height of 1.7m.

1.7m minimum

obscured glazing

Table 2.1 of the code specifies certain elements to be incorporated in the articulation zone such as a portico, awning, bay window, balcony or verandah.

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

Privacy Building design can assist with retaining the privacy of neighbours. The codes support windows, doors and decked areas minimising overlooking of adjoining private open space.
example: Window offsets
minimum 0.5m

environmentally-sustainable design All new housing and major renovations need to be designed to use less potable water and produce less greenhouse gas emissions. New houses and major renovations need to meet energy and water reduction targets and thermal comfort standards set by BASIX, the Building Sustainability Index.
example: Solar access

major opening

Section 2.3.2 of the code requires windows facing a window to a habitable room of a neighbours house to be offset by not less than 0.5m, if the windows are less than 5m apart. Privacy screens are needed for balconies, decks and terraces more < 4.0m than 1m above ground level and where less than 1.5m from a side or rear boundary. Private open space A well-designed house should allow for private open space which allows for a range of activities including gardening, outdoor entertaining and childrens play.
example: Private open space
Housing Code Illustrations - April 2008

principle private open space

living area

15 deg 15 deg

Section 2.9 of the code requires at least one habitable room to face within 15 degrees of north and at least 25Housing Code Illustrations -principle private open per cent of April 2008 space to face within 15 degrees of north.

principle private open space

living area

living area

Tables 2.6.1 and 2.6.2 of the code require, depending on lot size, an area of between 20% to 40% of the lot area as open space. Furthermore, at least a 24 square metre section of principal private open space must be provided adjacent to a habitable Housing Code Illustrations - April 2008 room (other than a bedroom) at ground level.


NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide

drAft for diScuSSioN MAY 2008

What else is in the codes

exeMPt deVeLOPMeNt
exempt development only applies to development that is of minimal environmental impact. Such developments do not require any approval under the planning system provided they meet the strict criteria set out in the codes. The code covers commonplace housing items such as: barbeques, pergolas, backyard garden sheds, awnings, carports, fences, letter boxes, ramps for a person with a disability, retaining walls, solar water heaters and water tanks (above and below ground). NSW commercial Building code An exempt and complying code for commercial and industrial development has been developed by the NSW government to include: minor development such as fences, letterboxes, carports and shade structures can proceed as exempt development. Other ancilliary development and advertising signs can proceed as complying development. Buildings can undergo changes of use, say from industrial to light industrial uses or from an office to a shop. Internal alterations can be accomodated through complying development.

wILL tHe cOdes cOVeR HeRItAGe cONseRVAtION AReAs?

As an interim step, heritage conservation areas and items have been excluded from the codes. Future versions of the code are proposed to include such areas, following a more intensive examination.

The NSW Commercial Building Code is available online at www.planning.nsw.gov.au.

wILL NeIGHbOURs be cONsULted?

Homeowners are always encouraged to consult with neighbours before lodging plans. However, the controls have been developed to provide building envelopes which are compatible with neighbouring properties.

wHAt FUtURe cOdes wILL be IssUed FOR cOMMeNt?

Housing codes Future codes to be released will include controls for developments such as: Single storey new house 450-600m2, Single storey house alterations and additions 450-600m2, Single storey new house 200-450m2, Single storey house alterations and additions 200-450m2, Terrace house 200-450m2, Terrace house alterations and additions 200-450m2, Two storey new house > 600m2, Two storey house alterations and additions > 600m2, Two storey new house 450-600m2, Two storey house alterations and additions 450-600m2, Two storey new house 200-450m2, Two storey house alterations and additions 200-450m2, and Duplex (two storey) 200-450m2.

dO OtHeR stAtes HAVe sIMILAR HOUsING cOdes?

Both Victoria and Western Australia have Statewide residential housing codes. For example for Western Australia the Residential Design Codes (known as the R-Codes) have a long tradition and a high level of acceptance in local government, industry and the community. They provide a uniform basis for shaping residential development across the state, delivering attractive streetscapes and maintaining neighbourliness. The codes are set out in such a way that it is clear that where all design standards are met approval is not required.

NSW HouSiNg code coMMuNitY guide