THE West Australian Government last week announced that the state's Residential Design Codes (R-Codes) have been amended to provide local governments with greater control on the location of multiple dwellings (apartments).
The changes re-introduce the site area per dwelling calculation, reducing the number of apartments that can be built on blocks zoned R30 and R35. Parking will also be increased to ensure every apartment is allocated at least one bay.
Planning Minister John Day said the changes, which will become operational on 23 October 2015, were in response to community and local government feedback.
"The R-Codes and local government planning schemes govern what can and can't be built on a residential block of land," Mr Day said.
"Since 2010, the number of apartments allowed on a block has been subject to a different calculation (plot ratio) to other infill developments such as units or townhouses. This has seen an increase in apartments being built in established suburbs with predominantly single homes."
The Minister said the new changes will bring the rules for apartments in line with units and townhouses to ensure the number of dwellings on a block is appropriate for the location.
The requirements for land coded R40 will remain the same. However, the State Government has issued a planning bulletin that will support and guide local governments seeking to amend local planning schemes to limit apartment development to appropriate R40 areas - within 800 metres of key activity centre and train station precincts.
The Minister said residential density would continue to be a priority in Perth's metropolitan area to accommodate the State's growing population.
"This change will provide local governments with the confidence and in some cases, direction, to deliver density in areas around high frequency public transport and major commercial and employment precincts," he said.
"Focusing density to these areas creates vibrant communities where people can live, work and play while reducing our dependency on cars.
"I call on all local governments to ensure their local planning schemes align with the R-Codes and that areas are zoned to deliver infill in the appropriate locations."
The Property Council of Australia said the changes will negatively impact the affordability of housing and put further pressure on the city's infrastructure, with the WA Division's Executive Director, Joe Lenzo, describing the changes as "a kneejerk reaction to pressure from some local councils who are opposed to any form of infill."
"Nothing happens in isolation and stymying development in inner suburbs simply forces the expansion of Perth's outer boundaries. This is in direct contradiction with the State Government's own 3.5million policy," Mr Lenzo said.
"If these changes are supposed to target development around activity centres and stations they must be accompanied by significant rezoning in those areas or there is no hope of the State and the local governments reaching their infill targets."
"Messing around with car parking requirements may sound insignificant, but will add substantial costs to development which will ultimately have to be shouldered by the consumer. With the inclusion of every additional car bay costing from $30,000 to $80,000, how do we expect the average consumer to be able to afford to buy somewhere to live?
"If parking is the problem, the answer is parking permits or better infrastructure – solutions that will not impact housing affordability.
"We need to be taking advantage of existing infrastructure in our suburbs, rather than having to build more and more outwards, which will mean greater costs for us all," Mr Lenzo concluded.
More information about the changes is available from the Department of Planning website at <http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/Residential-design-codes.asp>.