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R Codes fail to facilitate quality outcomes 23/07/2016

There is ongoing debate surrounding how we achieve more density in Perth in order to better accommodate our growing population.

There is ongoing debate surrounding how we achieve more density in Perth in order to better accommodate our growing population.

UDIA is an advocate of quality, medium and high-density development in appropriate areas, particularly around activity centres, that meets a range of lifestyle needs.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to achieving quality outcomes in medium and high-density development. Some of these barriers are due to the prescriptive nature of the Residential Design Codes (R Codes). The R Codes are a State Planning Policy used to control the siting and design of all forms of residential development.

The R Codes in many aspects are a good tool for guiding development, however, in some cases they can be quite a blunt instrument that takes a very inflexible approach to projects.

An example of where the R Codes prescriptive nature can undermine development outcomes that benefit the broader community is in terms of density and plot ratio. Due to these strict requirements that dictate built form, over time there have been many areas where only larger, high end units have been commercially viable, leading to a shortage of smaller, more affordable products.

Rather than using such a rigid policy approach that gets down to the very specifics of dwelling types and size, it would be more responsive to buyer demand to take a more holistic approach where the market is allowed to decide the specificities of the dwellings on offer.

Height restrictions have led to poor outcomes in locations where a focus on the number of ‘storeys’ allowed seems to override the potential benefits and appropriateness of a development in a certain area.

Fragmentation of land is another barrier to providing quality medium and high-density development to the market.

Many local councils have amended their residential density codings in order to increase the density allowed in certain areas. This has meant an increase in ad hoc subdivisions in many suburbs that has led to increased land fragmentation and negative outcomes for the local community.

Multiple ownership of land makes it difficult for developers to assemble large enough parcels of land or coordinate across ownerships to be able to produce quality ‘precinct scale’ development.

To date, successful precinct scale developments such as East Perth, Subiaco and Cockburn Central have relied on government-owned land that is easier to assemble into a large enough parcel to create something of a scale that can provide higher densities, better use of infrastructure and quality amenities and services.

A policy framework that facilitates land assembly to achieve quality outcomes for local communities would be a significant step forward in achieving affordable, sustainable and ultimately more liveable communities in new and established areas.

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