The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has rejected the affordable housing proposal submitted by the City of Ryde despite commending the Sydney council for their efforts to address the housing affordability crisis.

With a view to increasing affordable housing in the local community, the City of Ryde had submitted their draft policy, which would require residential developers to allocate 2 percent of the total floor area for affordable housing in developments in medium and high density zones as well as town centres, and 7 percent in developments that require the land to be rezoned. The council had also committed to ensuring that 5 percent of all new residential developments built in the local government area by 2031 would be set aside for affordable housing to benefit low to moderate income households.

Known as ‘inclusionary zoning’, this requirement could be met by developers either through floor space allocation or a monetary contribution.

Submitted in 2017, the affordable housing plan failed to receive approval from the DPIE because it wasn’t aligned with government guidelines that came into effect subsequent to the lodging of the draft policy. Describing the proposal as being “ahead of its time” at the time of its lodgement in 2017, DPIE’s senior executive Malcolm McDonald wrote that it demonstrated “the need for affordable housing in Ryde” while acknowledging the “comprehensive background studies and initiatives undertaken by Council since 2008”.

However, a new plan released by the Greater Sydney Commission in March 2018, suggested affordable rental housing targets as a solution to address the issue. A subsequent affordable housing guideline published by the DPIE in early 2019 required councils to first identify the areas for rezoning, which was different from the City of Ryde’s proposal to link the inclusionary zoning requirement to the developer’s development application.

Ryde mayor Jerome Laxale explained that the new guidelines were not viable for their area as it had already been considerably rezoned including the Macquarie Park precinct. The only way developers in Ryde could be persuaded to make affordable housing allocations would be through “more height, more density and more profits”, according to Laxale. However, the rejection of their draft policy by the government is a major setback to the council’s plans to make developers provide affordable housing across Ryde and Macquarie Park.

Currently, the City of Ryde has withdrawn their draft affordable housing proposal and is working with the planning department on a revised proposal that would be better aligned with the new Government guidelines on the issue of housing affordability.