Tax & Legal

WA puts housing at heart of latest cash splash

The McGowan government recently announced a raft of housing schemes aimed at boosting supply and increasing choice within the state’s embattled property market.

Among the initiatives, the Western Australian government launched its $80 million Infrastructure Development Fund aimed at “unlocking affordable housing opportunities” throughout the state, according to Premier Mark McGowan.

The scheme aims to unlock a pipeline of new apartment developments in metropolitan Perth as well as worker accommodation in regional areas through the removal of key barriers to housing development, including assisting local governments and developers to offset the costs of providing water, sewerage, and electricity services to new developments.

Equal funding will be offered for metropolitan and regional areas, with $40 million allocated for proposed apartment developments in urban infill and METRONET station precincts.

State planning minister, Rita Saffioti, explained, “There are significant opportunities to provide a diverse mix of housing in METRONET station precincts, such as infilling suburbs and land across the metropolitan area.”

“We want to support innovative proposals that might otherwise be hindered by a heated construction market,” she added.

Building on this, Western Australia housing minister John Carey said the program focuses on “infill apartment developments that can ensure more people have the choice to live close to key public transport connections and local amenities and will increase the supply of housing in our regional centres.”

An additional $40 million will be invested in the state’s regional centres to address water, wastewater, and electricity infrastructure constraints and support the delivery of accommodation for essential workers.

It’s hoped the scheme will limit the upfront costs of upgrading and improving service infrastructure, subsequently removing one of the greatest barriers to private sector investment in new housing developments.

The fund was welcomed by Property Council of Western Australia executive director Sandra Brewer, who believes the program “will help unlock development sites previously considered unfeasible and provide more choice in planning pathways.”

She explained the scheme was critical as polling from the Council revealed: “Three-quarters of Perth residents agree there is a lack of affordable housing supply in their area, and eight in 10 believe that a lack of new housing will make housing less affordable.”

Noting that “housing affordability is critical to talent attraction”, Ms Brewer insisted that as Western Australia grows, it must “ensure that housing delivery keeps pace with demand. These measures are an important step towards ensuring that.”

The McGowan government also announced its latest series of planning reforms, including the proposed amendment of the Planning and Development Act 2005 to change the composition and operation of the Western Australia Planning Commission (WAPC) and establish a permanent pathway for the assessment of development proposals of state and regional significance.

Changes to the legislation will result in refinements to the provisions established for the temporary Part 17 process and create a new, permanent assessment pathway that:

– Retains the WAPC, or a committee of the Commission, as the decision-maker

– Introduces a 120-day time frame for assessment and determination of significant development proposals

– Refines the eligibility criteria for what is considered to be state and regionally significant

– Embeds the successful state referral coordination process

Additionally, it has proposed that the Commission be reduced to 10 members, supported by a refined committee structure and improved transparency and efficiency.

Premier McGowan shared that the changes are essential to “ensuring there is a consistent approach to planning across our growing city.”

“Cutting red tape and driving consistency will encourage more private investment, which is critical for driving our economy, creating jobs, and delivering more housing choices for our community.”

Delivering the final reforms to Western Australia’s Development Assessment Panel (DAP) system, changes to existing regulations will be progressed in parallel to:

– Reduce the number of panels to three: one for each of Perth’s inner and outer rings, and one for regional Western Australia

– Permanently appoint highly experienced technical experts to serve as president and deputy presiding members on each panel

– Allow multiple dwelling developments to be determined by DAP

– Making DAPs a completely opt-in process for any development over $2 million, with standard exclusions such as single-family homes still applying

Finally, the state government released its first-ever planning policy to guide medium-density development throughout Western Australia, dubbed the Medium Density Housing Code.

The policy hones in on designing homes that are appropriately sized and suit the context of the land, while also delivering better outcomes in the design of living spaces and for the sustainability and efficiency of new homes.

A government statement outlined what the Code will deliver:

– Improved tree canopy across suburbs with incentives for the retention of existing trees and the requirement for new trees and deep soil areas to be included in all new developments

– Delivery of more housing diversity through a new deemed-to-comply pathway for terrace-style homes, and the requirement for a range of dwelling types in larger grouped and multiple dwelling developments

– Improved housing design with new requirements around minimum living and garden sizes and the need for them to be linked, and the orientation of new homes to deliver better energy efficiency and natural light

– Better neighbourhood amenities with consistent street setbacks and the requirements for new developments to consider impacts on neighbouring properties

– Site area concessions and the removal of occupancy restrictions to incentivise the development of gold-level accessible houses and encourage greater housing diversity and opportunities for ageing in place

The Code has been deemed a “great step toward the planning, design, and delivery of better quality spaces that support and strengthen existing communities” by Ms Brewer.

“It is vital the development community [is] supported to deliver high-quality, medium-density projects across WA,” she said.

“We know a lack of housing supply is challenging future affordability,” she concluded. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *