With increasing pressure in NSW to help solve the hot-button topic of housing affordability, there is now some recognition that making the process of approving home alterations and additions easier is part of the solution.
Put simply, creating more rooms on an existing property absorbs some of the increase in the number of people living in NSW without having to find extra land to do so.
This is undoubtedly good news for home owners looking to create more space for an expanding family who don’t want to move house.
Development Application approvals in Sydney lag behind Brisbane and Melbourne in terms of approvals per capita, and in some cases the speed of approvals.
While Sydney has improved the number of approvals per capita in recent years, according to the McKell Institute, Brisbane has jumped ahead of Sydney since 2013, whilst Melbourne has maintained its considerable lead as it matched Sydney’s rate of increase.
While the NSW Government’s long awaited planning reforms are still going through the consultation and legislative process, at least one council has taken the lead rather than wait for statewide change.
The Inner West Council, created recently as an amalgamation of Marrickville, Ashfield and Leichhardt Councils, has announced that it will streamline its DA approval process.
In announcing its new Development Assessment Policy, the Council made it clear that this targets small scale housing approvals such as alterations and additions, not just new homes, and that it will apply across the entire amalgamated Council’s boundaries.
Part of these changes involve giving better information to home owners before they submit their Development Application.
The Inner West Council is now running evening information seminars. In a sign of the demand for the information, the first seminar was booked out; the next one will be in August.
Some of the topics covered include:
- understanding development standards;
- how your alterations and additions contribute to your local area and the streetscape;
- the importance of speaking to neighbours about your plans before lodging your application.
The seminar also gives an overview of how the Council makes a decision about your application.
On the statewide front, the NSW Government made clear, as part of the June 2017 budget announcement, that its priority is to streamline the approvals process with the focus being on the creation of new homes and re-zoning of land to do so.
They also announced measures that shifted buying power away from investors and towards homeowners, especially first-time buyers.
However, while the help for first home buyers is considerable in terms of exemptions from stamp duty for homes costing up to $800,000, and no stamp duty on homes costing up to $650,000, it should be recognised that similar measures in the past also had the effect of also boosting house prices.
Other measures recently floated by the NSW Government include using independent panels to assess Development Applications over a certain value. Again, it is unclear whether this will be mandated as it risks another stoush between state and local government. Some NSW Councils are already operating these so-called Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs).
Taken together, one thing is clear: there is a major focus at all levels of government to change the current status quo. And if more councils adopt initiatives similar to the Inner West Council, one of the major hassles of home improvement, the Development Application, is about to get easier.