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Perth’s Density Laws Could Be Changing Soon

Last year, the WA government announced it would be introducing a new Medium Density Housing Code.

The code would have introduced new development controls, which aimed to encourage greater housing diversity while providing for better streetscapes and more sustainable development.

The changes were set to become law in September 2023. But then, in August, the government announced it was deferring its plans, citing ‘continuing challenges in the construction market’.

In particular, the government said it was concerned the changes, combined with rising construction costs, would have been too much of a burden for developers to bear.

This, it worried, would mean less development and – as our city’s population continues to grow – further pressure on both house prices and rentals.

What was the code going to change?

The new laws contained development controls for single and grouped housing on any code above R30. In simple terms, an R code tells you how many dwellings can be built on every one hectare or 10,000 square metres of land.

For instance, R30 provides for 30 dwellings. Under the existing code, that translates as an average site area of 300m2 and a minimum of 260m2.

This means if you have a quarter-acre block (1,012 m2), you could potentially subdivide it into three separate blocks and dwellings. If you had a larger block, you could add more. You could also potentially apply for a 5% variance to fit slightly more on each block.

How would the R codes have changed, and what is the position now?

The new zoning rules weren’t going to change these lot sizes. They instead imposed new requirements for increased garden areas, landscaping and internal layout. These would have effectively reduced the number of dwellings that could be built on many parcels of land

The government wanted to encourage further medium-density development and believed the requirements would impose new costs on developers, as well as reduce their potential profits.

It’s currently reviewing the proposed changes to the code and is likely to make new recommendations, although it hasn’t provided a timetable for this.

Instead, for the moment, the existing rules continue to apply. Here are some of the minimum and average site areas they provide for.

Zoning Average Site Area Minimum Site Area
R20 450m2 350m2
R30 300m2 260m2
R40 220m2 180m2
R50 180m2 160m2
R60 150m2 120m2

Generally, you’ll only find land zoned R60 and above in high-density areas, such as the Perth CBD.

Perth’s need for new zoning laws

We’ve previously noted the need for more ‘infill development’, as Perth’s population grows. This means medium and higher density properties closer to the city centre.

But getting this right is a balancing act – we want to encourage development, but we also want that development to be sustainable. New housing shouldn’t come at the cost of ruining the lifestyle that keeps attracting people to this great city in the first place.

While the changes may have been too burdensome for developers who need to build quickly, we’re still likely to see some tightening of the development laws down the track.

If you’re a property investor looking to maximise the capital gain or rent from your property through a small-scale development or subdivision, we recommend getting around to it sooner rather than later.

Want more?

If you want to invest in Perth real estate, rent out your Perth property or find your next Perth rental home, we can help. Get in touch with our specialist Perth property team today.

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