Minimum Apartment Sizes need Clarity

The determination by the NSW Land and Environment Court about minimum apartment sizes has created industry confusion and this must be resolved, says the Urban Taskforce.

“The Land and Environment court has determined that a table of nine apartment types takes precedence over a ‘rule of thumb’ in the Residential Flat Design Code,” says Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson. “But the NSW Government issued a draft Apartment Design Guide in September 2014 that defined minimum apartment sizes in accordance with the earlier ‘rules of thumb’.”

“While the court may well be deciding on a technical interpretation in the current Residential Flat Design Code it is clear that the Government supports the ‘rule of thumb’ in the proposed replacement document.”

“It is now important that the new Minister for Planning clarifies that the ‘rules of thumb’ standards for apartment size are to be those that approval bodies are to go by. This is clearly the Government’s intent as illustrated by Table 6 on Minimum Apartment Sizes in the draft Apartment Design Guide issued in September 2014.”

“Some councils have argued for larger apartment sizes than the Government’s minimums and included these in their Development Control Plans. All this does is increase the cost of apartments by up to $200,000 in some areas. Sydney is already one of the most expensive cities in the world for housing and the NSW Government must do all it can to minimise costs. One way to do this is to ensure that all councils conform to the same minimum apartment sizes.”

“The state’s planning system was going to be reformed four years ago but it became too difficult to achieve this. We now have the planning legislation being redefined by court decisions to the detriment of those looking to buy a new dwelling.”

“The Urban Taskforce believes the new Minister for Planning has an opportunity to begin sorting out the states complex planning system by clarifying the legal interpretation of minimum apartment sizes before Sydney’s 41 separate councils start setting their own standards now that the rules seem to have been changed by the court.”

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