12/08/2014 - 11:29

Reforms hailed as affordability breakthrough

12/08/2014 - 11:29

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The state government has streamlined the planning approvals process, rolling out consistent regulations across local governments, introducing online application systems, and removing the requirement for single homes that meet R-Code regulations to have to go through the planning approvals process.

Reforms hailed as affordability breakthrough
Planning Minister John Day says the changes will save time and dollars.

The state government has streamlined the planning approvals process, rolling out consistent regulations across local governments, introducing online application systems, and removing the requirement for single homes that meet R-Code regulations to have to go through the planning approvals process.

The changes - welcomed by key industry groups - are part of the state government’s second phase of planning reforms, with industry continually having identified the process as the cause of Perth’s housing affordability issues.

The first phase of reforms was released in 2009 and included the introduction of Development Assessment Panels for major projects, coordination of infrastructure delivery and land supply, and the introduction of regional planning committees.

Planning Minister John Day unveiled the second phase of reforms today, saying they were designed to hasten the approvals process and reduce the cost and time it takes to develop land.

Among the changes announced today was the removal of the need for single dwellings to receive planning approval if they already meet R-Code regulations. 

Currently, 11 of metropolitan Perth's 30 councils require planning approval for single homes. 

Mr Day said there would also be heightened focus on quality design for urban infill and high-density projects, while the Development Assessment Panels system has also been reviewed.

Developers of projects ranging from $2 million to $10 million will now be able to opt for DAP assessment if they choose, changing from the previous range of $3 million to $7 million.

The mandatory DAP value has been bumped up from $7 million to $10 million-plus, while the City of Perth threshold is now $20 million-plus.

“The new thresholds will enable more people to opt-in or out of the DAP process to provide a greater level of flexibility,” Mr Day said

Urban Development Institute of Australia WA chief executive, Debra Goostrey, said the changes would be a breakthrough for housing affordability.

She said key changes for the industry were streamlining the structure planning process, concurrent amendments, and a review of Western Australian Planning Commission practices for region and local scheme amendments.

“These changes mean that we will have a single rulebook across all local authorities, making the process far more transparent,” Ms Goostrey said.

“Combined, these changes will see a significant reduction in timelines for development which should roll through to cost savings for first home buyers.”

The Property Council of Australia was also effusive in its praise of the reforms.

Property Council WA executive director Joe Lenzo said it was heartening to see many of the council’s requests for reform had been met by the government.

“The last raft of reforms to the Western Australian planning system created a strong and robust framework,” he said.

“These new reforms will push WA to the forefront of the national planning conversation.

“This should not be seen as a loss of local councils, but rather the shifting of responsibility to a body that is specifically structured to have the expertise and capability to shoulder it.’’

Mr Lenzo said the future of WA was intrinsically linked to the state’s planning policies.

“Creating a better strategic alignment between local and state planning schemes will mean a better future for Western Australia,” he said.

“The property industry is a driving force in the state’s economy and these reforms will play a central role in keeping WA growing.”

The Housing Industry Association said the R-Code changes in particular had been at the forefront of the lobby group's advocacy agenda for many years.

"This will allow the timeframes for securing a building permit to reduce significantly which will ultimately benefit the consumer," HIA WA executive director John Gelavis said.

"The state government is to be contratulated this and the other reforms.

Mr Gelavis said the reforms aimed at expediting the availability of titled land were also welcomed by the HIA.

The Master Builders Association, however, said while the reforms were a step forward, they stopped short of addressing all of the industry’s concerns.

MBA director of housing Geoff Cooper said industry had lobbied for private certifications for planning approvals, a request not met by the Planning Minister today.

“The WA government has still left planning applications wholly in the hands of bureaucrats,” Mr Cooper said.

“The government has promised a further discussion paper, but private certification is a further vital reform we’d like to see implemented straight away to tackle delays being experienced by home owners.

“We’d also like the government commit financial resources to support the implementation and refinement of electronic lodgement processes to speed up building and planning approvals.”

Mr Cooper said the reforms also did not address the need for planning schemes to allow for higher densities in popular locations.

The chief executive of Australia's largest home builder, BGC Residential's Kelvin Ryan, said the reforms were the biggest changes to the state's planning system in recent memory, representing a giant leap forward for the industry.

Mr Ryan said he expected the removal of planning approval requirements for homes that meet R-Codes would make it much easier for builders to reach the record starts predicted for the coming year.

"These changes have come about because the Premier, Planning Minister and various state government agencies have shown leadership and worked with BGC and the industry as a whole to get these positive reforms on the table," he said.

"While there is always more to be done in terms of building approvals, today represents some very good news for any Western Australian who is looking to build their own home."

WA's second largest builder, ABN Group, also praised the government's reforms.

ABN Group managing director Dale Alcock said the changes would bring WA in line with more streamlined planning and building processes in place in Victoria.

"The building industry has been waiting for these changes for a long time and it signifies a turning point in the future development of WA," Mr Alcock said.

"I welcome and support today's announcement and look forward to seeing more changes implemented as the state government continues to review planning and building processes in WA."

 

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