Conversations with the Minister series: Housing density – there are more options than ‘up’

| April 26, 2017

A key component to delivering housing affordability will be a community conversation around density. NSW Minister for Planning, Housing, and Special Minister of State, the Hon. Anthony Roberts MP, says we should consider options beyond the traditional model of free-standing houses and apartments.


The state government recognises that the dream of owning a home in Sydney has become tough for younger generations to realise. While many baby boomers comfortably own their homes, it’s their children and grandchildren they worry will never be able to.

NSW’s strong economy gives us a chance to think innovatively about how we can extend benefits to many, providing homes in new ways, of different kinds, and with different ownership models.

A key component to delivering housing affordability will be a community conversation around density. The government’s view to meet the housing needs of present and future generations centres around the need for a greater variety in dwelling sizes and types as well to cater for different needs and desires.

Demographics – How are our communities changing?

  • Sydney’s ageing population and a boost in the number of children predicted to be born in the next 20 years means the city will need to find new ways to provide homes that cater for the needs of all sectors of society.
  • Sydney will have almost 500,000 more people aged 65 years or more.
  • There are likely to be over 1.5 million babies born between 2016 and 2036. This means family households will continue to make up half of all households in Sydney.
  • In Sydney, much of the demand for more housing is from young families, but home ownership for people in the 20-35 age group keeps falling because it’s hard for them to get a toe-hold in the market.

Density design options – Missing middle

  • Currently, most new homes built in NSW tend to fall into two categories: traditional free-standing houses and apartments. What’s missing is the range of housing types that fall between these two categories: terrace houses, townhouses, manor homes, villas, dual-occupancy homes and so on.
  • Terrace-style housing’s more affordable because it needs less land area than a detached home. Recent data from RPS Group shows this gap is evident in many inner-middle ring Sydney suburbs such as Five Dock, Lane Cove, Marrickville and Northbridge, which all have less than 20 per cent terrace-style housing.

Medium density design guide and code

  • We’ve released a draft Medium Density Design Guide and an Explanation of Intended Effect for a new Medium Density Housing Code for consultation.
  • The design guide will apply to development applications and complying developments. It provides for new supplies of:
    • terrace-style housing on Torrens and strata-titled lots;
    • dual occupancies and semi-detached dwellings;
    • villa and townhouse developments;
    • community-titled, master-planned and medium-density developments; and
    • manor houses and ‘one on top of other’ dual occupancies of between two and four dwellings.

Benefits of medium density

  • Medium-density housing can support walkable environments and a strong sense of community.
  • It can free up underused large homes by giving older people an option for downsizing.
  • Sydney has a growing housing efficiency problem with 600,000 homes having at least two bedrooms empty every night. The huge number of unused bedrooms in these homes is the equivalent of 20 years’ worth of housing supply.

We want to hear from you

Preserving our heritage, community connectivity and good design to encourage healthy living are the hallmarks for a vibrant society.

The Government believes the missing middle and medium density will help move our communities towards this and increase housing affordability.

Housing Affordability Online Consultation:

Q: What can be done to improve housing affordability?

Anthony Roberts MP
The Hon Anthony Roberts MP is the New South Wales Minister for Planning, the Minister for Housing, and the Special Minister of State since January 2017 in the Berejiklian government. A Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, he has represented the Electorate of Lane Cove for the Liberal Party since 2003. Following the Coalition victory in the March 2011 election, Anthony was appointed Minister for Fair Trading in the O’Farrell Government, assuming his position on 3 April 2011. Upon taking office, he immediately embarked on a wide-ranging Fair Trading reform agenda in areas including the State’s fifty year-old strata and community title laws, the home building sector, the retirement village industry, the motor vehicle industry, and the residential land lease communities sector. He successfully implemented legislation to prohibit the sale, manufacture and possession of synthetic drugs, was responsible for introducing new measures to reduce the number of children falling from apartment windows, and developed new laws to address the issue of ticket scalping for major events in NSW. On 9 December 2013 Anthony was promoted by then-Premier Barry O’Farrell to the role of Minister for Resources and Energy, and Special Minister of State. On 23 April 2014 Premier Mike Baird promoted Anthony to the additional role of Leader of the House in the NSW Legislative Assembly, on top of his existing portfolios. As Leader of the House, Anthony is responsible for the Government’s legislative agenda. Since December 2013 Anthony has embarked on a series of aggressive energy market reforms, including deregulating electricity prices, announcing a market-led rollout of smart electricity meters and ending gold-plating of the electricity networks. In the resources sector he has delivered the landmark NSW Gas Plan, facilitated the signing of an historic agreement on land access between gas producers and landholders, and commenced the first NSW Minerals Industry Action Plan. He served as Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy between 2015 and January 2017.

One Comment

  1. Haddad

    May 8, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Allowing first storey addtions as a separate dwelling will increase densities. Instead of one family occupying a two storey house two families would be. Ofcourse the building would need to be built to comply with the BCA in terms of fire, noise, etc.