A Better Way To Get Development Approval – Compliant Development Code

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Most of us know about the headaches of the council approval process, but not many people know they can fast track approval through the compliant development code.

Ryan:    When it comes to renovating or developing property, most often you need to put your designs through council and go through that entire process in order to be able to actually build what you wanna build. However, there is another way to do it through the state environmental planning policy, we’re specifically talking about New South Wales here. And this may eventually be expanded to medium housing as well. So there’s opportunities to fast track developments for you guys.

And so today, I have on the show Luke Durack from durackarchitects.com and he’s gonna give us an overview of what exactly this is and so you can understand this opportunity. So hey Luke, thanks for coming on today.

Luke:    Good day, Ryan, thanks for having me.

Ryan:    Okay so I think it’s best to start where people are probably most familiar which is if we wanna do something to a property, let’s say we wanna add a second storey or we wanna add a room at the back or any sort of development or renovation, most people would assume, “Okay, I’ve gotta put that through council in order to get that approved.”

But you’re saying there’s actually for some particular types of renovations or developments, there’s another way to go about it. So can we start there?

Luke:    Yeah, so as you say, at the moment, still the standard way to go through a development pathway is to go, put your documents in place and submit to council a DA. But there is a fast tracked way of getting development and building approval in one hit that allows you to bypass council altogether.

So for certain types of development, for example a house, adding a second level to a house, a single storey house or a two storey dwelling, you put together your … there’s certain documents that are required to satisfy the requirements of this compliant development code and submit them to a private certifier and you can have your building approval within 10 to 20 days as opposed to going through council and all the months of headache that that might create.

Ryan:    Yeah, and then if you do get approved or you don’t and it comes back and you’ve gotta adjust things and you gotta go through the council process again. It can be very difficult for people, I know.

Luke:    Exactly. So this is a real winner but a lot of people don’t know it exists. And you know, it’s only for certain types of development. And it’s very black and white whereas the current DA process, there’s some room for movement, there’s some gray areas. With compliant development, you basically have to tick all the boxes. As soon as you don’t tick one box, you fall outside, the ability to run down that path and you have to go back to a DA.

Ryan:    So do granny flats fall under this? ‘Cause I know recently in New South Wales it’s become much easier to build granny flats?

Luke:    Yeah, it does. So it includes studios, granny flats. As you probably know, there is I think 450 square meter minimum lots size for granny flats.

Ryan:    For me to build up to 60 square meters, et cetera.

Luke:    That’s right. Those sorts of … just the way DA has certain requirements through the DCP and LEPs, the compliant development has a set of controls that revolve around the same sort of things.

So [inaudible 00:03:39], landscape, you know, building height, setbacks and that sort of thing. So you have to still comply to a whole lot of different rules but as long as you do that, you can streamline your process, save time and cost.

Ryan:    So let’s say someone who’s thinking about doing a development at the moment, whether it be a second storey or a renovation or something like that, how do they know whether they will fall under this or not? How do they find out about it?

Luke:    You can go and spend the hours that you probably would need to do looking up the state environmental planning policy for example, the compliant development which is really a headache.

Ryan:    Which probably no one’s gonna do.

Luke:    Or you can come to an architect or a planner and they will basically look at … work with you on your brief and what you want to accomplish and then set it against the different controls that exist for compliant development or a DA and basically go … if you basically wanna add a third level to your house, we’re not gonna be able to go through compliant development but if you wanna do various other bits and pieces, we can run that through compliant development.

Ryan:    So why don’t more people know about this or do this?

Luke:    Well, exempt and compliant development’s been around for quite a long time now. I think it’s first come around in 2001. What most people still do is go through a DA just ’cause they don’t … I think primarily ’cause people don’t know about it, it’s not broadcast.

Ryan:    So if I just go to, like you’re saying, a builder, a local builder or something like that, they probably won’t know about this code to be able to do it.

Luke:    They may, they may not, no. I mean, if you look on the website, any council … the majority of applications as you say, DA is not compliant development. But it’s sort of a real untapped market, I think and because it’s only suitable for a certain scale. Although that scale’s set to increase.

It’s a real money and time saver for a lot of development types and a lot of DAs go in that could have been done as compliant development.

Ryan:    Yeah. So I guess we’ll move on to talking about the medium density housing, like the expansion to this that is potentially going through but before we get onto that, I guess I just wanna say if someone’s going to their architect, what should they ask their architect in order to ask about this?

Luke:    Well, they just basically go to an architect and say, “Look, we wanna renovate our home or our commercial industrial property,” it applies to those as well as residential, and you’d like to proceed with the process under compliant development. It’s as simple as that.

Ryan:    Yeah. And then the architect will know what you’re talking about and they’ll be able to tell you whether you can do it or not.

Luke:    That’s right, yeah.

Ryan:    Yeah, cool. Okay, so let’s about this, there’s this draft at the moment which is the draft medium density design guide. What is this draft and what could it allow for developers in the future?

Luke:    So yeah basically it’s an expansion of the existing exempt and compliant development code. So it’s currently in its draft format but the deadline for submissions for that is December and I think the [book’s 00:07:18] set to come into effect early next year, assuming no issues.

So basically it looks at … it’s set up for medium density housing. So basically the planning minister in New South Wales, Rob Stakes has said, “We need more choice, more affordability, more availability in housing while also sitting within a framework of quality designs.” There’s this big issue of affordability at the moment so that’s where the big push is coming from although there is a lot of conjecture about whether increased stock actually has an effect on affordability. As you probably know.

So basically we’ve got a growing population. Sydney’s population is set to double over the next 50 years, aging population mean they need more affordable housing. So medium density housing is more than one dwelling and less than 10 meters in height.

So we’re talking about terrace housing on small lots, dual occupancies, semi-detached dwellings. Whether that’s on strata or Torrens title land. Master planned, medium density developments, up to two storeys and then things called [inaudible 00:08:51] homes which are two storey buildings with three or four dwellings in them.

Ryan:    Okay. So there’s opportunities if this goes through, then early in 2017, there’ll be opportunities for people who wanna get into the development game or who are doing developments for medium density housing, whether that be like dual occupancies, townhouses et cetera to actually fast track the developments and so rather than going through … like we talked about the heartache of council for these larger scale developments, we can get actually through in like 10 to 20 days.

Luke:    Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And I mean it’s potentially a real game changer because you now, the strategic planning benefits have increased availability and affordability, are one part of the issue. But from a development perspective, it streamlines the process, reducing time and cost.

And now that’s open to a broader range of housing types. So yeah, it’s a real win for anyone wanting to build. I mean, it’s suitable for particular councils more than others, you know basically where there are lot sizes that are slightly larger. But those big lot sizes can be found anywhere, it’s just there are more in other places.

Ryan:    Yeah, well it’s just if you’re willing to look for them you can find them. So obviously, like we’re saying, if you wanna build a granny flat, you need to have a minimum lot of size of 450 square meters or something. If you’re gonna do like this medium density development, then obviously you gonna need a certain minimum lot size as well.

Luke:    That’s right. I mean, one of the benefits though, this new code will be that the subdivision requirements are also improved so at the moment there are certain strata subdivisions that can be done under the compliant development code but this will open up Torrens title and strata subdivision on those developments that can be done concurrently with the building application.

So and then also the lot sizes that are currently set in the LEP, there’ll be some … it appears there’ll be some sort of … not reduction but lenience given to medium density housing so the same lot size won’t apply to medium density housing.

Ryan:    Okay. I kind of lost you there. So you’re saying through it’s gonna be easier for people to subdivide lots?

Luke:    That’s right. That’s the simple part of it, yeah.

Ryan:    ‘Cause at the moment, will it also be cheaper? ‘Cause it’s pretty expensive, right, to subdivide a block?

Luke:    Yeah, yeah. So I think, you know, you look at 20 to 25 grand to subdivide a block. Yeah, I mean going through this process will be a lot cheaper and it’s also done at the same time as you put in your building application. So it’s done at the same time. The actual subdivision won’t be done until the end of the build from my understanding but yeah.

Ryan:    So someone could potentially build a block of land with an old house on it, maybe they wanna knock down that old house and then build two new dwellings and subdivide it. That process could become a lot easier for them.

Luke:    Just a lot more streamlined, yeah, that’s right. And the benefits of … it doesn’t have to be strata subdivided anymore. So people prefer Torrens subdivisions ’cause it allows more flexibility.

Ryan:    Let’s quickly talk about that just for people who don’t know the difference. What’s the difference between a Torrens title and a strata title?

Luke:    So strata titles, typically you’re in your apartment building so where a public area is that need to be managed as a whole. So the apartment block may have, whatever, six strata properties on that one lot. Whereas a house is typically Torrens title. So the single house, single house on a single lot.

Ryan:    Yeah, and so if someone’s doing a strata title subdivision, then there’s gonna be some joint land between the subdivisions that they have to share and organize body corporate and that sort of stuff.

Luke:    That’s right. Yeah. So for a dual occupancy, a strata subdivision’s not ideal ’cause the two people … you know, they have dual dwellings that are potentially attached but they may not know each other but they’ve gotta both manage the part of land that’s …

Ryan:    The backyard and the front yard and stuff like that. It will be just much easier to cut it straight down the middle and just say, “This is your land, that’s yours.”

Luke:    That’s right. And that which is Torrens Title and that Torrens Title subdivision will be allowable for certain developments in this new code.

Ryan:    Yeah. And so I can imagine that a lot of people who are thinking about development, this is gonna be pretty exciting for them ’cause it’ll open up more potential for investors to be like, “Okay, like once we know what the minimum requirements are in terms of block size and thing like that,” and they can start going out and looking for those blocks of land and things like that.

Do we have any idea of what minimum block size and some of these requirements will be yet?

Luke:    Yeah. I mean the lot … My understand is the lot size, you’ll still go to the lots, the minimum lot size in the LEP for that particular council. But there’s a minimum of 200 square meters for a lot size for compliant development. But the minimum lot size in the LEP may be 300.

There’s a bit of…

Ryan:    So what’s LEP?

Luke:    LEP is the Local Environmental Plan and DCP is the-

Ryan:    District or something?

Luke:    District Council Plan. That’s embarrassing, I’m actually not sure. So basically the LEP’s more … it’s sort of law whereas the DCPs are council guidelines. So you know, the LEP controls things such as floor space ratio and the height whereas the DCP will control … will set setbacks and that sort of thing. So the point of difference, the DCP while the council relies on it heavily to make their decisions, it’s not law in the same way that the LEP is.

Ryan:    Okay. So minimum lot size basically it will still vary from council to council.

Luke:    That’s right. But it is an LEP control. So if you want to break that control as in if you want to subdivide your site down to under the minimum, you have to put in a basically an objection and explain why you think that’s possible.

Ryan:    Yeah, okay. I’m a bit lost, I must admit.

Luke:    Sorry, Ryan. The just of it is-

Ryan:    Too many acronyms for me that I don’t really understand but that’s all right.

Luke:    Yeah, sorry about that. Basically, subdivision becomes easier but the minimum lot size is so you just have to comply with whatever those lot sizes are when you’re doing a development.

Ryan:    But I think I guess what we wanted to get through to you guys today was these news … firstly, that this actually already exists for residential dwellings and for some developments and so if you’re looking at adding a granny flat, adding a second storey to a building, doing a renovation, see if you can go through this … what was it called again? This compliant … the state environmental planning policy.

Luke:    Yeah, we’re the exempt and compliant development.

Ryan:    Yeah, so see if you can go through that in order to fast track your development but then in the near future, hopefully early 2017, then you can actually explore this as well for developments.

So if you are looking at doing medium density developments, then definitely consider this as an option because it could save you a great deal of money and it could actually open up opportunity for people with existing blocks as well who meet these minimum requirements. Their block could all of a sudden become viable for development where before it might be too much effort or something like that.

Luke:    Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Ryan:    So is there anything that you think we should add that we didn’t really cover?

Luke:    Just let me have a little think. Not really. I think the only thing would be to say that there’s also a push for similar broadening of the scope of mid rise apartments to be done. So you know, in the future we’ll hopefully see a similar code set up for apartment buildings which will open up more opportunities.

But most of the exempt and compliant development has been set up in the same way that … actually I won’t go into it, it just gets a bit-

Ryan:    It gets too technical?

Luke:    Yeah. But basically that’s the gist of it. The compliant development is a good way to go for certain types of development ’cause it saves time and money.

Ryan:    And the biggest thing is, because people need to go through an architect likely to do this, unless they’re willing to troll the internet and to learn all this stuff themselves which they’re probably not going to do, let’s face it. We all have limited time and it’s probably not gonna be the most enjoyable experience.

Luke:    No. But you know, I definitely enjoy it.

Ryan:    But yeah, I guess, the thing is, speak to your architect when you are doing your … drawing up your plans for whatever it may be and see if this is an option for you because they should know. Will all architects know this or is it just the architects like yourself who are up-to-date and keeping track of these things?

Luke:    I think most architects … I’d be surprised if most architects didn’t know it existed but not every architect will have their head around the different controls and rules associated with it in order to to assess whether you can do your development that way.

Ryan:    Yeah. So you need to pick one who knows what they’re talking about.

Luke:    Yeah, I mean, they’ll look into it and they’ll do it but yeah, you’ll need to say to them, “I’d like to do my development under compliant development, not a DA.” And they’ll know-

Ryan:    And then they’ll go, “Oh, what’s that?” Well, I think that’s important to know ’cause often people go to the experts aka the architects, expecting them to know the exact best way to do things but sometimes they don’t. And sometimes you need to have just a little bit of information yourself as the owner of the property and the person doing the development to say, “Well, can we explore this option?” And then the expert, the architect will go away and find out whether you can or can’t.

So I’m guessing at this point, people who are like … their eyes are poked up, they’re interested in this sort of thing, you obviously know what you’re talking about, they might want to get in contact with yourself, Luke, how can they get in contact with you and what sort of work and developments do you help people with?

Luke:    So I’m the director of Durack Architects and we work primarily in residential architecture but mostly in houses and small apartment buildings so that houses might be new houses or alterations and additions to existing houses. They may be apartments, terraces, semi-detached dwellings or new houses and then also smaller apartment buildings.

But yeah, we primarily work in residential architecture and that’s where our interest lies. So I mean, if you’re interested in knowing more just get in touch.

Ryan:    So how do people get in touch. Is the best way to go to the website?

Luke:    Yeah, yeah. Either send us an email at [email protected] or just to go to our website which is durackarchitects.com.

Ryan:    Okay. And Durack is spelt D-U-R-A-C-K for those who aren’t sure because I actually got it wrong when we were talking.

Luke:    Not a worries.

Ryan:    So yeah guys, if you’re interested in getting in contact with Luke, head over to durackarchitects.com or if you have your own architect that you’re working with, just make sure that you ask them about this. So I hope that this was helpful to you, I hope that this has expanded your education and your horizons into what is possible in terms of the development, medium density development, even smaller sized developments at the moment as well.

So thanks so much, Luke, for coming on today.

Luke:    My pleasure.

Ryan:    And till next time, guys, stay positive.


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