91̳

New Medium Density Housing Code – A Balancing Act for the Planning Industry

There is never a good time to introduce new planning requirements or shifts in policy and determining the right time to do this requires the careful balancing of a number of competing interests. The new Medium Density Housing Code emerged from the need to improve the quality of medium density housing currently being delivered. The predominant presence of poorly designed triplexes lacking gardens, natural sunlight, and ventilation highlighted the need for better outcomes. The need to do better is something most in the industry agrees on, however, determining the appropriate timing for the implementation of these changes presents a significant challenge.

There is no doubt that the introduction of the new Medium Density Housing Code will require a period of transition for both the planning and development industries, and the impact of this transition on both industries isn’t to be underplayed. Builders and developers will need to familiarize themselves with the new Code and develop new design outcomes to meet the requirements whilst also meeting affordability objectives in an extremely challenging construction market. Local Governments also face a significant change in how they assess these applications along with the additional work aligning Local Planning Policies and Structure Plans within the next 2 years. But inevitably there is a greater cost to society in doing nothing or not transitioning from 1 September as planned.

A report prepared by for the Department of Planning Lands and Heritage looked at broader community and societal costs to poorly designed medium density.

A case study in the report quantified costs on a per dwelling basis. The report concluded that for every new businesses-as-usual dwelling there is an additional $29,200 of costs borne by the wider community. The report further states:

Extrapolating these costs to a WA wide level, new medium density housing could be creating $117 million in additional costs to society every year if there is no change in the planning, design and development of medium density housing. Over a decade this accumulates to a cost of $1.17 billion”.

While these financial costs are significant, so too is the impact of continuing to enable housing outcomes that deliver poor liveability. The development of the Medium Density Housing Code has shown us there is a better way of delivering improved housing outcomes in medium density areas.

PIA WA welcomes the introduction of the new Medium Density Housing Code and has been involved throughout the review process with the Department of Planning Lands and Heritage.

While acknowledging the concerns and potential additional costs associated with the new Medium Density Housing Code, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of finding a balanced approach that considers the long-term costs and benefits for the wider community. The implementation of the Code will be new for all, and it is critical that we continue to collaborate with the DPLH, industry stakeholders, and professional bodies to maintain a dialogue and monitor to ensure implementation of the Code is delivering good planning outcomes.

The 91̳ WA believes that the new Medium Density Housing Code represents a significant opportunity to improve the liveability and sustainability of our medium density housing stock. By diversifying housing options, fostering community integration, enhancing the urban fabric, and considering infrastructure needs, this Code paves the way for a more resilient and liveable future. We encourage local governments, developers, and communities to embrace this code and seize the opportunity to shape our cities and suburbs in ways that meet the needs of current and future generations.

AMANDA SHEERS MPIA

PIA WA State President