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HOW confident can Sydneysiders be that ‘The Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code’ will create well designed dual occupancies, manor houses and terraces (up to two storeys) to be carried out under a fast track complying development approval?

To date the experience of many residents has been somewhat contrary to this report from the Department of Planning and Environment!

The department submits that this Code will help housing affordability yet to date duplex units have been selling above the price of established quality housing in our suburbs; they in fact are large developments. Back in the late 1990s duplex were built more in character with the local cottages having 2 or 3 bedrooms and not built forward of the setback!

It would seem that the developer lobby have been able to manipulate higher density of the low-rise medium density housing code due to rezoning which occurred years ago under local councils LEPs. Perhaps back then there was not the anticipation of rows of terraces, Manor Houses (blocks of 4 flats), triplex and duplex of the large dimensions now being constructed! With some estates having smaller lots of 500 – 600M2 one would have expected that developers would build medium density on larger lots of 700 M2 or more!

One must question how the local character of our neighbourhoods will be maintained with the two storey limit when as the photographs below show that such developments are entirely out of character and are taller than their two-storey neighbours? They are in fact oversized in many cases and out of scale of development with the established streetscapes!

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CAAN Photo: A futuristic design out of character with many Sydney suburbs. Note to the left of the photo the diminished home overshadowed and impacted by this dual occ.

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CAAN Photo: Two dual occs side by side; the second dual occ is of a similar design with huge impact; concrete build emitting Co2. Note the majority of dual occs are large with 4 bedrooms; are they catering for the overseas family Visa market? Priced until recently at $2M each in Sydney’s Middle Ring. How can such developments fall under the category of small more affordable homes?


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CAAN Photo: An example of a cottage in a Ryde LGA Estate. Quality homes like this are now being impacted by oversized dual occs losing privacy, views, and being diminished by the impact! Lots range between 500M2 and 600M2 unlike older estates of 700/800M2 lots. Residents question the suitability of the smaller lots for dual occ developments!

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CAAN Photo: oversized dual occ overshadows, and built much higher than its substantial 2-storey neighbours; very little yard remains where there was a bungalow, a garden with trees and a pool!

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CAAN Photo: A duplex that looks like a block of flats! It is set forward of its 2-storey neighbours on either side. It towers above them! At the rear the neighbour has had to plant bamboo to regain some privacy as the development is built close to the back fence!

It was finished in January 2019 following some 12 months in development. At 4 July 2019 neither unit has sold! Needless to say …!

Imagine this dual occ next to the cottage in the photo above!


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CAAN Photo: Large Dual Occ built on a corner block forward of the setback of its neighbour; robbing them of their amenity! Question the quality of this build? Looks like a hardware shop shed! Would this fall under the category of a Planning Department well-designed dual occ?

RYDE has been overdeveloped with high-rise precincts in Meadowbank, Ryde, North Ryde, Gladesville, Macquarie Park and in between! Schools, hospitals, trains and buses are all full-up. The roads are clogged including Macquarie Park which has been rezoned for residential from a business and IT Park!


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CAAN Photo: A townhouse redevelopment of 6 – 8 dwellings where there was 1 cottage and a garden with trees. Concrete construction emitting Co2; the neighbours have lost their amenity following more than 12 months of demolition, asbestos removal, excavation for garaging; construction etc!

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CAAN Photo: The neighbourhood had to endure the excavation for new pipe installation over several months where there was a footpath and a verge; the mess; tradie trucks parking out this street and the neighbouring streets for 12 months or more! What of the rights of the estate homeowners?

The Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code

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The Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code (Code) allows well designed dual occupancies, manor houses and terraces (up to two storeys) to be carried out under a fast track complying development approval. A complying development approval can be issued within 20 days if the proposal complies with all the relevant requirements in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 (Codes SEPP).

Low rise housing helps housing affordability by providing smaller homes on smaller lots that still provide all the amenities of a single dwelling and can accommodate a wide variety of lifestyles and needs, including growing families or empty nesters

Low rise housing as complying development is only allowed in R1, R2, R3 and RU5 zones where it is already permitted under a council’s Local Environmental Plan (LEP).

A development proposal must meet all of the development standards in the Code and the Design Criteria in the supporting Low Rise Medium Density Design Guide for complying development.

After close to three years of consultation, the Code commenced on 6 July 2018 in many council areas across the State.

Read the Code

Independent review and temporary deferral

Following the release of the Code in July 2018, a temporary deferral was granted to 49 councils until 1 July 2019.

For the City of Ryde, a deferral was granted until 1 July 2020 based on advice from the Greater Sydney Commission.

The Code is already working well in 78 council areas across the State, and some councils granted a temporary deferral have used that time successfully to amend their local planning controls to prepare for the Code. A further four councils are now ready for the Code to commence on 1 July 2019.

The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces has requested an independent review to assess progress on the Code to date, identify impediments to the Code’s delivery in deferred areas, and make recommendations on the appropriate pathway forward to finalise the Code’s implementation.

Professor Roberta Ryan commenced the independent review in mid-June and is expected to provide her report by the end of July. Professor Ryan will assess published council positions on the Code and consult with peak stakeholder groups including Local Government NSW. To allow the review to take place, there will be a further extension of the deferral of the Code in 45 councils until 31 October 2019.

Pending the recommendations of the review, the deferral means that in the deferred council areas landowners will not be able to use the Code to lodge a complying development application for dual occupancies, manor houses or terraces until 1 November 2019 (or 1 July 2020 in the City of Ryde).

It also means that during the deferral period, a council’s local planning controls will continue to apply and landowners may lodge a development application for a dual occupancy or multi dwelling housing if these forms of housing are allowed under the relevant council LEP.

Councils with a temporary deferral from the Code

Benefits of the Code

The benefits of the Code include:

  • increasing the supply of housing across NSW, especially in Sydney, which will help improve housing affordability,
  • better meet the needs of our changing population by providing a broader range of housing options to suit different lifestyle needs,
  • help to maintain the local character of neighbourhoods with a two storey height limit. This will ensure the size and scale of development will fit into established streetscapes and new release areas, and
  • ensure a consistent approach to the good design of medium density housing across NSW.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Department has prepared three lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) available to view or download as PDFs:

Page last updated: 28/06/2019