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Rob Stokes. Rob Stokes.
16 March 2016 Posted by 

COMMENT: Terrace housing an option for downsizers

By NSW Minister for Planning
Rob Stokes

WHEN you picture long rows of terrace houses, what suburbs spring to mind? Paddington, Surry Hills, Redfern or Newtown?

In fact some of the biggest clusters of terrace houses are located right here, in northern Sydney.

If you take a stroll down Jeffrey Street in Kirribilli, you’ll one of the longest rows of terrace houses in Australia. These 17 gems were built in the first area to be settled by Europeans on the north side of Sydney Harbour, modelled on architectural styles popular in London and Paris 100 years earlier.

Although these terraces are now some of the northern suburb’s most prized real estate, they were nearly wiped from existence. In Jeffrey Street, most were demolished to make way for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While between 1919 and 1962 it became basically illegal to build terrace houses across Sydney, opening up a 50 year gap in supply and what’s now becoming coined as Sydney’s ‘Missing Middle’.

Metropolitan Sydney alone will need an extra 664,000 homes over the next 20 years to meet future population growth. The most important thing we need to do to plan for this growth is provide quality, sustainable and affordable housing stock in the right locations so these homes have access to green spaces, transport and social infrastructure.

Terrace style housing is more affordable because it require less land area than a detached home, is more sustainable because it utilises common walls which provide better noise and energy insulation, and also provide private outdoor spaces prized by families. 

The push for more terrace housing is by no means one way. A third of homeowners surveyed by the Department of Planning and Environment last year said they would consider downsizing to terraces in the future.

As demographics and lifestyles change terraces becomes an increasingly attractive option to meet the needs of our growing and aging population.

Several months ago, the NSW Government released a discussion paper asking for feedback on what the requirements should be put in place if ‘complying development’ assessment provisions were to be extended to include medium density housing, like terraces.

Complying development is different to the standard Development Assessment process because it allows fast tracked assessment of straightforward developments like new dwellings and house alternations.

To qualify for complying development, the proposals must conform to a set of strict pre-determined standards and it must already be permissible under the existing council zone in that location.

Complying development is faster because it provides the option for either councils or privately accredited certifiers to assess the development. This means it frees up resources in local councils so they can focus on assessing larger or more complex developments.

Complying development is also much simpler for residents because it provides certainty that development must conform to a set of strict pre-determined standards and the local zone requirements before being approved.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stood around a Sunday barbeque when the conversation has turned into a competition about the length of time a development application has taken to get determined by council.

The average development application process currently takes more than three months. In contrast, complying development applications take an average of 18 days to assess. If we extend complying development to include terraces, we can help ensure that this robust and more sustainable form of housing is assessed faster.

I want to finish with the bottom line. For individual homeowners, the savings of complying development over traditional development applications could be as high as $15,000 per home for single dwellings and dual occupancies. Between 2013 and 2014 complying development also injected $4.4 billion worth of development into the NSW economy.

As Sydney continues to grow, well-designed human-scale terrace houses suitable for the needs of everyday living are a viable option for our future. The ‘Missing Middle’ doesn’t have to be MIA.

By extending complying development to include medium density developments, we can create more diverse, more sustainable and more cost-effective housing opportunities for Sydney.




Michael Walls
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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