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Stokes urges high-quality housing amid rising population figures

Rob Stokes (pictured above) has urged the importance of strong design in the NSW government's Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy. Photo: Faceboook/Rob Stokes.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes has stressed the need for high-quality housing supply to form a cost-effective solution to Sydney’s housing affordability crisis.

The Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) released by the NSW government last week circled commerciality and feasibility as two factors that will inform the state’s housing strategy following COVID-19. The SEPP emphasised the importance of strong housing design, saying that the “cost of bad design can have significant long-term safety, economic and societal impacts” on the state.  

Renewed plans for housing comes as the City of Sydney expects population growth of over 85,000 in the next two decades and amid the Land and Housing Corporation’s $22 billion Communities Plus program that is set to reconfigure the City’s social housing portfolio. 

“The market fails particular groups, repeatedly, and continues to fail them and we would say in increasing numbers,” John Engeler, the CEO of the state’s peak body for housing policy Shelter NSW, told City Hub in April. 

“A good percentage of the population needs the state, and especially in the inner city you could argue, to provide better housing and make it secure; the system isn’t doing that at the moment, it’s creaking, it’s under such pressure.” 

In the SEPP, the NSW government acknowledged that existing design practices and regulation “lacks coherence and is disjointed,” growing uncertainty, risk and transaction costs for developers. It also listed design standards as an issue in reaching emissions reduction policy, which sets out plans for net-zero emissions by 2050 and a 35 per cent reduction by 2030. 

Practising Policy

The SEPP proposes to introduce new requirements to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 to support new initiatives aiming to meet reduction targets. Under the policy, new development application requirements must include a Net Zero Ready statement, verification that the advice of design review panels has been incorporated and, for prescribed building types, an explanation of how non-renewable energy will be offset. 

Under Stokes’ Ministerial Direction, planning proposals for sites greater than one hectare must consider the SEPP design principles and considerations, ensure they are considered by a design review panel and consider the Urban Design Guide 2021, a resource drafted by the state government to “improve the planning and design of urban environments” across NSW. 

The policy will be on public exhibition until 28 February 2022, with the NSW government calling for community feedback about the design, draft and place of the SEPP to be made over the next two months. 

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