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.
Whilst a precise timeframe for the amendments has yet to be confirmed, it is currently estimated to be in the order of 6 months.
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 are being prepared to address these.
If you have any queries in the meantime, please contact the Design and Built Environment Policy team via: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your local government to discuss the specific implications of this decision for your development proposal.
What are the R-Codes and what is changing?
‘The R-Codes’ refers to State Planning Policy 7.3 Residential Design Codes which are adopted as a State Planning Policy under Part 3 of the Planning and Development Act 2005. The current R-Codes comprise of two volumes:
- Volume 1 which principally applies to single houses and grouped dwellings and was gazetted in 2021
- Volume 2 which relates to apartments and higher density residential development and was gazetted in 2019.
Changes to the Volume 1 (and consequential changes to Volume 2) to address medium density housing were endorsed by the WAPC in 2022 and were scheduled to be gazetted (ie come into effect) on 1 September 2023. These changes are sometimes referred to as the Medium Density Housing Code (though technically they are not a separate code but a part of the broader R-Codes policy).
Gazettal of these changes now been further deferred and further amendments are to be undertaken to retain current (2021) policy settings for R30 and R40 coded development.
What is the Medium Housing Density Code?
The Residential Design Codes (or ‘R-Codes’) provide a comprehensive basis for the assessment of residential development across the state. A recent review considered changes to the policy settings for medium density development and the changes recommended to the R-Codes as a result (including creation of a new ‘Part C – Medium Density’) are sometimes referred to as the Medium Density Housing Code. It is not actually a separate code or policy but rather part of the overarching Residential Design Code policy. This is a State Planning Policy created under Part 3 of the Planning and Development Act.
Why has gazettal of the revisions to the R-Codes / Medium Density Code been 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) to defer gazettal and undertake amendments to the draft Policy to retain/reinstate status quo policy settings for R30 and R40 development. The WAPC has agreed.
Why was this concern not identified earlier?
Affordability issues and impacts on construction cost were an important consideration in the development of the draft policy provisions and the recommended revisions were considered to represent a reasonable balance between objectives at the time they were endorsed.
However rapidly changing circumstances have increased concerns around construction costs, housing affordability and supply, and the residential development sector, and the Minister has consequently decided to request a deferral of the new provisions and the preparation of amendments to them.
When will the new version of the R-Codes be released and come into affect?
The timeframe for amendments requested by the Minister is not yet known, however it is anticipated this process will likely take around six months. A timeline will be published as soon as the approach is confirmed.
Why will it take so long?
State Planning Policy 7.3 is a complicated document with a lot of interconnected parts which will need to be redrafted to incorporate the amendments requested to Volume 1. This will also impact Volume 2, Planning Bulletins and Position Statements which will require review. Every effort will be made to progress the updates as quickly as possible.
So what R-Code policy provisions apply in the meantime?
The gazetted volumes of State Planning Policy 7.3 as published on the DPLH website remain in force.
Does the draft revised R-Codes (2023) have any status?
The draft revisions which were scheduled for gazettal on 1 September 2023 (but which have now been deferred pending further amendment) remain a draft, subject to further amendments.
What does this mean for current residential applications / proposals?
Current applications will need to be assessed 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 and until repealed and replaced, and will continue to provide a basis for assessment for most lower and medium density residential development. Planning applications can seek performance-based assessment against the Design Principles of the current R-Codes.
Where local development plans, local structure plans and / or local planning policies legitimately vary the R-Codes, the status of these remains unchanged.
Who can I speak to for more information?
The Department is updating information on this website as it becomes available.
If your question has not been resolved by the existing information, please direct your query 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.