In 2011, the Western Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) released the “State Affordable Housing Strategy 2010-2020: Opening Doors to Affordable Housing” (Strategy).
The Strategy outlined the need for a co-ordinated approach to improving the supply and design of affordable housing throughout Western Australia and also identified that the current planning and approval process does not support the efficient supply of land and varied housing types to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and diverse population.
In response to these concerns, on 8 October 2013, the WAPC released a discussion paper entitled “Planning Provisions for Affordable Housing” (Discussion Paper) for public comment (a copy of the Discussion Paper can be found here).
The Discussion Paper identifies that there is currently a conflicting policy position in relation to how affordable housing should be provided between different government departments and local governments, including an apparent conflict in the policies within the same departments.
In particular, the Discussion Paper identifies that there is a conflict between existing policies which:
on the one hand, focus only on the physical characteristics of dwellings, and therefore rely on dedicated affordable housing providers to deliver any affordability outcomes after construction is complete; and
on the other, focus only on dictating minimum affordable housing densities through the development approval and conditioning process, but which leave the physical characteristics and location of housing types to developers.
To address these inconsistencies and to provide certainty for local governments, the development industry and affordable housing providers, the Discussion Paper has identified a number of approaches which may be implemented, either individually or together, to support affordable housing initiatives. These include the implementation of:
barrier reduction mechanisms, such as removing certain controls or requirements which inhibit the development of affordable housing;
protective mechanisms, such as restrictive covenants to ensure there is no change of use to affordable housing already in existence;
planning incentives, such as density bonuses;
voluntary negotiated agreements, such as between a developer and the local government or the State to provide a certain percentage of affordable land or housing; and
mandatory provisions, such as requirements for developers to provide a certain percentage of a particular type or style of housing as part of a development.
The opportunity to make submissions on the strategy for the provision of affordable housing in WA pursuant to the options outlined in the Discussion Paper close on 9 December 2013.
Lavan Legal comment
Lavan Legal welcomes any reforms that seek to improve the transparency, efficiency and certainty of the planning approvals and development process in Western Australia.