New South Wales

NSW Government dumps affordable housing planning policy

THE New South Wales Government has announced changes to a controversial affordable housing planning policy introduced by the former Labor Government that was designed to increase the supply of affordable rental and social housing in NSW.

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009, or AHSEPP, was introduced in 2009 in response to housing affordability concerns. The policy allowed medium-density developments to be constructed even if they did not comply with local planning laws, providing that at least 20 per cent of the housing was set aside to be rented at below market rates for 10 years.

"Getting affordable housing delivered is critical but Labor's laws were just a backdoor deal for small-time developers to make a fast buck," Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said.

Mr Hazzard said there was no evidence to suggest the policy resulted in housing being made available to those in need. Instead, he said the policy "turned into nothing more than an opportunity to deliver overdevelopment, out of character with local areas."

The government has halted all new private development applications in low density residential areas under the AHSEPP until an Affordable Housing Taskforce is established.  For existing applications, there will be new requirements, including a requirement that developers build in accordance with the existing character and landscape of neighbourhoods.

In other changes, developments must provide at least 20 per cent of the total floor space – rather than a specified number of units as previously required – as affordable rental housing for 10 years.

Developments will also be subject to stricter public transport test to ensure that affordable housing developments in Sydney are located close to public transport routes operating seven days a week. In regional areas, a new test will be introduced to ensure developments are accessibly located within 400 metres of a local centre or mixed-use zone.

In addition to amendments to the AHSEPP, a second stage of the review will involve the formation of an Affordable Housing Taskforce and the development and implementation of a new Affordable Housing Choice SEPP.

The Taskforce will comprise representatives from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, social housing experts, community housing providers, local government representatives and other relevant government agencies, to be announced at a later date.

The new Affordable Housing Choice SEPP will replace the current policy. According to a Department of Planning and Infrastructure fact sheet, the new policy will "include those provisions from the AHSEPP that are widely supported, plus new initiatives to encourage a wide range of development types to meet the needs and demands of the community."

The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW (LGSA) applauded the State Government's announcement and welcomed their commitment to consult with councils in developing a new policy.

"The affordable housing policy has been the subject of widespread concern for councils and communities, so we're very happy that the current State Government has removed this failed policy," said President of the Local Government Association, Cr Keith Rhoades.

"The affordable housing policy was essentially overriding local planning controls and promoted inappropriate developments across NSW. It took a 'one size fits all' approach that completely disregarded local character, design and community needs," he said.

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