Seniors living could take hit from new policy change

The Property Council of Australia has expressed concern over an unexpected provision in the Department of Planning’s Draft Housing State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing SEPP), which will negatively impact seniors housing.

Property Council NSW Executive Director Luke Achterstraat said although he welcomed the new policy to facilitate additional housing supply, changes were needed.

“This new policy has huge potential to add to the supply of affordable accommodation and seniors housing in the state and is a critical lever to addressing the ongoing housing affordability crisis in New South Wales,” Mr Achterstraat said.

“However, a concerning and unexpected provision is the prohibition of seniors Independent Living Units from areas zoned as R2 Low Density Residential land use zones, which covers a vast majority of low-density areas in suburban Sydney. 

“These areas have long allowed seniors housing providers to compete effectively to acquire land and increase the supply of seniors housing in NSW.

“This blanket prohibition of seniors independent living units from these areas is considered a step backwards.”

Mr Achterstraat said the policy would also have the unfortunate consequence of forcing hundreds of lawful seniors housing developments through NSW to rely upon ‘existing use rights’ in order to make changes to their development.

“Research indicates that NSW is approaching a ‘perfect storm’ with regards to seniors housing, with a rapidly ageing population and supply of seniors living accommodation dwindling rapidly due to a lack of appropriate supporting provisions provided by the state planning authority,” he said. 

“Low density residential areas are often the preferred area of choice of many seniors, who like to live in the suburbs and neighbourhoods they are familiar with and that are located close to their family, friends and community.

“Although not only seniors would miss out but singles and couples seeking affordable rental accommodation. The Draft SEPP introduces a new type housing development known as ‘co-living, which is a new and improved form of boarding house. 

“The introduction of a new form of apartment rental accommodation aimed at couples and singles, known as ‘co-living’ is a great innovation but fails to hit the mark to deliver housing effectively.”

Mr Achterstraat said co-living was permitted where councils had already zoned for higher-density residential development.

“However, co-living forms of development had to seek out lower density suburban areas in order to ‘add up’ financially,” he said.

“The policy prohibits this type of development in low-density suburban zones, unless a council makes a specific exemption for this, which is highly unlikely given many councils oppose many types of new residential development.

“The exclusion of this form of development in the R2 low density zones has the potential to wipe out over 80,000Ha of zoned land in the Sydney Metropolitan Area – and places even further pressure on the medium to high density residential areas that are already hotly contested for alternative high-density forms of development.”

Map: Ethos Urban

 Media contact: Aidan Green | M 0491 030 028 | E [email protected]