State Planning Policy 7.3 - Residential Design Codes

Residential design provisions for low and medium density with supporting documents.

The R-Codes control the design of most residential development throughout Western Australia. The R-Codes aim to address emerging design trends, promote sustainability, improve clarity and highlight assessment pathways to facilitate better outcomes for residents. They are also used for the assessment of residential subdivision proposals and should be read with Development Control Policy 2.2 Residential Subdivision for this purpose.

The R-Codes Explanatory Guidelines and Practice Notes provide assistance on operation and interpretation of provisions. The R-Codes Assessment Checklist streamlines residential development application compliance assessment to support a consistent, accurate and faster determination process. Previous versions of the R-Codes are available on the State Law Publisher website.

The R-Codes are administered and applied by local government, so all enquiries relating to specific development proposals (including the application and interpretation of provisions of the R-Codes to specific development proposals) must be directed to the relevant local government where the development proposal is located.

Medium density

The draft Medium Density Code is proposed as an amendment to the R-Codes Volume 1.

It is anticipated that upon finalisation of the Medium Density Code, the development provisions of the R-Codes Volume 1 will be divided into:

  • Part A: Operation of Codes
  • Part B: Low Density Code
  • Part C: Medium Density Code

For more information visit the Medium density page.

Which R-Codes volume should I be using?

  Single houses Grouped dwellings Apartments/
multiple dwellings
R-Codes Volume 1 All single house development All grouped dwelling development R35 and below
R-Codes Volume 2 - Apartments N/A N/A R40 and above
Residential component of
mixed-use development

Interim R-Codes review

(downloads available above)

The WA Government has reviewed State Planning Policy 7.3: Residential Design Codes - Volume 1 (R-Codes) as part of its package of planning reforms to assist with economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The review resulted in a series of amendments to the R-Codes. The amendments aim to support the residential building industry, local governments, and homeowners by simplifying clauses and streamlining approval processes for low to medium density housing projects.

The amendments were gazetted and became operational on Friday 2nd July 2021. 

To review the extent of the amendments that will become operational on the 2nd July 2021, refer to the Schedule of Amendments

A further, more comprehensive review of the R-Codes is underway as part of the Design WA Medium Density Code.

To further assist understanding of the recently amended R-Codes, an online information session was hosted by the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage. The information session discussed the key changes to the R-Codes and provided clarification of common queries that had arisen from the changes. A recording of this session can be found below.

R-Codes FAQ

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What is State Planning Policy 7.3: Residential Design Codes – Volume 1 (R-Codes)?

The R-Codes is a State Planning Policy that sets out the basis of design and assessment for single houses, grouped dwellings, and multiple dwellings (in areas coded less than R40) in Western Australia. Generally, single houses and ancillary structures such as patios, sheds or carports that meet the deemed-to-comply provisions of the R-Codes do not require development approval. 

Why were the R-Codes being reviewed?

The review is one of several initiatives underway as part of the State Government’s economic recovery response to COVID-19.

These proposed changes are interim in nature, aimed at streamlining the approval process for single houses, grouped dwellings, multiple dwellings (in areas coded less than R40), and ancillary structures, by revising and simplifying assessment methods and requirements, and improving the phrasing of clauses.

What changes are being incorporated?

The proposed changes have:

  • provided more generous deemed-to-comply provisions to address common triggers that have previously necessitated a development application for small-scale developments, such as outbuildings, patios, retaining walls, and boundary walls
  • brought provisions in line with contemporary home design, including higher floor to ceiling heights and various roof forms
  • simplified tables and figures to improve readability and assist assessment
  • improved outdoor living areas and landscaping to enhance outdoor lifestyle
  • removed the requirement for development approval for single houses (that meet the deemed-to-comply provisions) on lots under 260m2.

What are the deemed-to-comply provisions and how will the proposed amendments make assessment easier?

Deemed-to-comply provisions are R-Code standards that proposals are measured against. 

Development approval is only required for a single house where the proposal does not meet a deemed-to-comply provision of the R-Codes. When this occurs, a development application is required and the decision-maker will assess the application against the corresponding design principle(s).

Will development approval still be required for single houses?

Development approval is required for a single house where the proposal does not meet the deemed-to-comply provisions of the R-Codes or where development approval is required under the local planning scheme.

Simpler deemed-to-comply provisions will now make it easier to determine if a development application is required and consequently, result in fewer proposals requiring development approval.

Will this make it easier for me to build a shed (outbuilding), deck or patio?

Yes – amendments have been made to the deemed-to-comply standards that make it easier to build sheds (outbuildings), decks and patios. These include provisions that allow small sheds to be built up to lot boundaries, reducing side setbacks, and permitting more generous encroachments into front setbacks. Compliant structures will not require development approval, but a building permit may still be required. 

How will the amendments improve the quality of outdoor living areas?

The amendments include clear provisions requiring a consolidated outdoor living area, a designated tree planting area, and the planting of one tree for each dwelling. This will provide greater opportunities for enjoyment of outdoor areas and gardens. A new definition is also included for an indoor primary living space, which refers to the main hub of the home. The amended provisions require connectivity between the outdoor living area and primary living space.

Do the tree and tree planting area requirements apply to all types of development?

The tree requirements of C.2.2 are to apply to all dwellings, including single houses, grouped dwellings and ancillary dwellings, as well as to multiple dwelling sites. These requirements also apply to existing dwellings retained within new developments. The tree requirements however do not apply to extensions to existing dwellings, or to ancillary structures, such as carports and outbuildings.

Retained existing trees may be included to satisfy the minimum tree requirements of this provision.

Can the tree and tree planting area be located in the outdoor living area?

Yes. But the tree planting area must be fully uncovered to allow the tree to fully grow.

Are pillars and posts behind the street setback line, included within the calculation of boundary walls?

The note under clause 5.1.3, which states: “Pillars and posts with a horizontal dimension of 450mm by 450mm, or less, do not constitute a boundary wall”, applies when calculating boundary walls behind the street setback as per deemed-to-comply provision 5.1.3 C3.2. The note has been included to clarify that a pillar of up to 450 x 450mm is not captured in the definition for ‘boundary wall’ and should not be included in the calculation of the maximum boundary wall length (being 1/3 of balance of boundary behind the front setback or 9m, whichever is the greater).

Were there any amendments made to provisions relating to garage widths?

The Commission adopted the amendment to remove “within 1m of the building” from Clause 5.2.2 C2. The intent of this change is to limit the dominance of garages on streetscapes. During stakeholder consultation, garage dominance was identified as an issue, particular for single storey dwellings built on narrow lots.  This outcome was attributed to the former wording of Clause 5.2.2 C2 that allowed garages setback more than 1.0m behind the dwelling alignment to occupy the majority of the lot frontage.

How does this interim R-Codes review integrate with the draft Medium Density Code?

The review is an interim response to the economic challenges of the current COVID-19 environment and is aimed at streamlining dwelling approval processes, while achieving good design outcomes. 

This review is separate from the draft Medium Density Code.  For more information about the draft Medium Density Code visit the Medium Density Code page

Following finalisation of the draft Medium Density Code, it is intended that the interim review R-Code provisions will be located alongside the Medium Density Code in a revised R-Codes Volume 1.

Will these changes override existing local planning framework requirements?

The elements which may be modified through the local planning framework without WAPC approval are listed in Part 7 of the R-Codes and have not changed.

The amendments from this interim review will not override variations introduced via a local planning instrument that was adopted in accordance with Part 7. For example, an existing local planning policy remains valid provided it varies only those provisions that may be varied without WAPC approval, or WAPC approval was granted.

What version of the R-Codes are to apply in relation to applications lodged prior to gazettal of the interim review of the R-Codes (prior to 2 July 2021)?

The interim review amendments were gazetted on 2 July 2021. 

If a development proposal is to be determined after the gazettal of the interim review amendments, the decision-maker is to use the version of the R-Codes that is dated 2 July 2021.

For details on specific proposals, including the expected determination date applicable to the proposal, please contact the relevant local government.

What happens if I currently have a development application for a single house lodged with the local government and these changes mean development approval is no longer required?

If a development application for a single house has been lodged with the local government and yet to be determined, the applicant may submit a written request to the local government for the application to be withdrawn. This is provided that the application meets all the relevant deemed-to-comply provisions.

Development approval will still be required for proposals that do not meet the deemed-to-comply provisions.

Do existing Local Development Plans that are now inconsistent with the amended R-Codes prevail?

A Local Development Plan that varies the R-Codes and has been properly approved (by the Local Government or WAPC) prior to the gazettal of the amended R-Codes (July 2021), is able to continue to operate without further Local Government or WAPC approval until the expiry date of that approval under the deemed provisions of the Planning and Development (Local Planning Schemes) Regulations 2015

Will additional resources be made available to help local government assessors with these new R-Codes amendments?

Local governments can seek advice on the R-Codes provisions from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage local area teams and the Design WA team at DesignWA@dplh.wa.gov.au.

R-Codes Volume 1 Documents

SPP 7.3 Residential design codes - Volume 1 (computer version)
SPP7.3 Residential design codes - Volume 1 (tablet/print version)
SPP 7.3 Residential design codes - explanatory guidelines (computer version)
SPP7.3 Residential design codes - explanatory guidelines (tablet/print version)
SPP 7.3 Residential design codes - practice notes
SPP 7.3 Residential design codes - compliance checklist

Interim R-Codes review Documents

Tracked Changes of Amendments made 02 July 2021
Page reviewed 23 September 2021