Affordable housing SEPP re-written

27 May 2011

On Friday last week the NSW Government amended the Affordable Housing State Environmental Planning Policy saying that it wanted to stop developments “that destroy communities”.


Planning and Infrastructure Minister, Brad Hazzard, said the changes end the ability for “private developers to override local communities’ planning controls under the guise of ‘affordable housing'”.


“Getting affordable housing delivered is critical but Labor’s laws were just a backdoor deal for small-time developers to make a fast buck,” Mr Hazzard said.


“Labor’s promise to deliver affordable housing through private developments turned into nothing more than an opportunity to deliver overdevelopment, out of character with local areas.


“There is evidence developers were using this Labor law as a backdoor method to make vast amounts of money out of overdevelopments.”


The effect of the amendments is to delete or water-down those provisions of the SEPP which might have made it attractive to some private sector developers. The most significant part of the amendments can be summarised as follows:


  • Townhouse, terrace or apartment development by anyone (other than public authorities or social housing providers) must now already be permissible in the zone, if the provisions in the SEPP are to apply. (A provision that allows not-for-profit organisation that directly provide rental housing to secure defacto rezonings – through “site compatibility certificates – has been retained.)
  • A consent authority must now consider the “character of the local area” – note this is reference to the present, rather than desired future character, of any area. This new provision is retrospective, in the sense that it applies to existing applications currently in the system. We are concerned about retrospective changes in policy and we will seek assurances that no further such changes are made.
  • The requirements in relation to public transport access have been tightened.
  • Parking requirements have been increased.

Despite a statement in the Minister’s media release and media reports, no actual ban on new private sector applications under the SEPP has been introduced. Nonetheless, the ability of the SEPP to support commercially viable development has largely been eliminated.


The NSW Government will now form an “Affordable Housing Taskforce” to develop an “Affordable Housing Choice State Environmental Planning Policy”. The Minister has advised us that we will be part of this group. This document will ultimately replace the existing (amended) Affordable Housing SEPP.


The Department of Planning and Infrastructure will now also work with local councils to develop “Local Affordable Housing Choice Strategies” for individual council areas or councils in a region, “to reflect their local housing needs and development characteristics”.


Each strategy will be approved by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure and implemented through a council’s local environmental plan. Once the state government agree that strategies meet local affordable housing needs the council will be exempt from provisions in the Affordable Housing Choice SEPP.


The Department of Planning and Infrastructure’s planning circular is here.


Their fact sheet on the changes is here.