Proposed changes to SEPP 65 – Design Quality of Residential Flat Development

The State government has announced draft changes to SEPP 65 and the associated guidelines known as the Residential Flat Design Code. The draft documents are currently on exhibition for public comment until 31 October 2014.

SEPP 65 applies to residential flat buildings of three or more storeys that would contain at least four or more dwellings.

The Government’s media release focuses on the link between improving apartment design and affordability. To address this a new objective is proposed in the SEPP: “to contribute to the provision of affordable housing options”, and changes to the Code (or Guide) include setting a minimum size for studio apartments at 35m2 and no minimum car parking requirements for flat developments in certain nominated council areas close to train or light rail (Mosman is not affected by this change). Despite the hype around affordability the proposed changes don’t demonstrate that any savings would be passed onto home buyers.

SEPP 65 was developed in 2002 to promote better apartment design by ensuring these developments were designed by architects and signed off by architects at various stages in construction. The proposed changes signal an expansion of its role perhaps in recognition that other planning measures introduced by the State are not having the desired effect. If you say “affordable” enough will that become self-fulfilling?

The Department of Planning and Environment’s website includes these documents as well as an overview and frequently asked questions to help you understand what they are proposing. The Design Code, while maintaining a similar format and structure, has been rewritten, new photos and diagrams have been included and the document has a new title of Apartment Design Guide.