Amendments to Residential Design Codes (Medium Density Codes)

The Medium Density Housing Code was prepared as a series of amendment to State Planning Policy 7.3 Residential Design Codes (‘R-Codes’) to deliver better housing choice across Perth to reflect our changing lifestyles and housing needs, and create more vibrant communities.
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Read the Ancillary dwelling information sheet

The amended State Planning Policy 7.3 including the new Medium Density Code provisions was scheduled to be gazetted on 1 September 2023 as part of a staged transition to introduce the new standards. 

The State Government has since requested that the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) defer gazettal of the amended policy in consideration of continuing challenges in the housing construction market and to undertake amendments to it to retain current (2021) policy provisions for R30 and R40 coded development The WAPC has considered the Minister’s request and agreed to prepare these amendments.  

The amended Residential Design Codes will be made publicly available on 8 March 2024 and will become operational following gazettal in the week starting 8 April 2024.  

The Department and the WAPC understand this raises questions, particularly in relation to existing applications drafted in accordance with the proposed Medium Density Code and FAQs have been prepared to address these.  

If you have any queries in the meantime, please contact the Design and Built Environment Policy team via: designwa@dplh.wa.gov.au or contact your local government to discuss the specific implications of this decision for your development proposal. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When will the new version of the R-Codes be released and come into affect?

The amended State Planning Policy 7.3 will be released on 8 March 2024 and will become operational in the week of 8 April 2024. 

Yes. The amended R-Codes will be published approximately one month prior to gazettal.  Transitional provisions enabling continued application of certain R-Code variations through local planning instruments will apply for a 24-month period from gazettal to allow for a staged transition to the new standards.

What R-Code policy provisions apply in the meantime?

The gazetted volumes of State Planning Policy 7.3 (Volume 1 and Volume 2) remain operational until the amended R-Codes are gazetted.

What does this mean for current residential applications / proposals?

Applications continue to require assessment in accordance with the planning frameworks which apply on the date they are determined. This means that the current (2021) version of Volume 1 of the R-Codes applies unless it is repealed and replaced. It will continue to provide a basis for assessment for most lower and medium density residential development until the amended R- Codes are gazetted.

Where properly adopted and approved local development plans, local structure plans and/or local planning policies legitimately vary the R-Codes, the status of these remains unchanged.

Why was gazettal of the revisions to the R-Codes / Medium Density Code deferred?

In response to growing concerns around pressures on the housing market and industry, the Minister for Planning requested the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) defer gazettal and prepare amendments to the draft policy to retain/reinstate status quo policy settings for R30 and R40 development. In response, the WAPC appointed an experienced consultant to review and provide possible options. 

What further changes are being proposed?

The recent amendments seek to minimise change to popular R30-40 Single House product while retaining some of the greater flexibility and design improvements proposed through the original amendments. These include:

  • Relocating R30-40 Single House development standards back into Part B to reinstate 2021 standards.
  • Retaining R30-40 Grouped Dwelling development standards in Part C and retaining 2023 draft standards with the following modifications:
    • Not proceeding with the draft 2023 Part C standards for Single House and Grouped Dwelling development relating to:
      • Minimum bedroom room size and dimension
      • Minimum primary living space size and dimension
      • Minimum depth of single aspect primary living space
      • Courtyard proportions relative to adjoining wall height.
    • Retaining current 2021 open space standards in place of draft new Part C site cover standards for a period of 24 months.
    • Retaining Planning Bulletin 112/2016 R-MD provisions for R25 – R40.
  • The titles of Parts B and C will not refer to ‘Low’ or ‘Medium’ density.

To maintain opportunities for greater housing diversity, it is proposed to:

  • Maintain incentives for Small Dwellings and Accessible Dwellings in R30-60 coded areas.
  • Enable Ancillary Dwellings (granny flats) on grouped dwellings/strata lots (previously only applicable to Single House sites) in all codes, and remove the minimum 350m2 lot size.
  • Delete deemed-to-comply provision 5.5.1 C1(v) in Part B which states, “ancillary dwelling is designed to be compatible with the colour, roof pitch and materials of the single house or grouped dwelling on the same lot.

The changes being considered have been informed by consultation through the review of Volume 1, with more than 200 submissions received, as well as input from representatives of key industry and community stakeholder groups including:

  • Urban Development Institute of Australian
  • Housing Industry Association
  • Property Council Australia
  • Western Australian Local Government Association
  • Planning Institute Australia
  • Local Government Planners Association
  • Australian Institute of Architects
  • Major builders and developers.

The R-Codes will not assign particular codes as medium density. While there can be some debate around exactly what constitutes low, medium or high density, it is the quality and context of development that creates livable communities. The National Planning Reform Blueprint released in August 2023 promotes the development of medium and high-density housing in well located areas close to existing public transport connections, amenities and employment.

How do changes to ancillary dwellings relate to Short Term Rental Accommodation (STRA)?

Ancillary dwellings are located on the same title as the main dwelling and are considered hosted accommodation – where the owner or permanent resident (host) lives onsite.

Specific conditions apply and all STRA will be required to be registered from 1 January 2025. You can find out more about STRA requirements at www.wa.gov.au/stra-initiatives.

Guidelines to assist in understanding the application of the R-Codes will be updated to include the amendments and published once approved for release. DPLH staff will continue to be available to provide advice where necessary.

The Department will update information on this website as it becomes available.

Please direct further queries to DesignWA@dplh.wa.gov.au   

Queries regarding individual development applications and what specific local planning provisions apply can be directed to the relevant local government.