Another five Sydney councils – Randwick, Inner West, Northern Beaches, City of Ryde and the City of Canada Bay, are set to be included in the State Environmental Planning Policy 70 (SEPP 70), which allows a council to levy developers for affordable housing across their areas.

Although all NSW councils now require developers to make contributions for affordable housing through individual agreements, the use of SEPP 70 means developers will be required to implement affordable rental strategies in a more structured and measurable way.

"Inclusion in SEPP 70 will simplify the process for development in these local government areas, meaning there is a consistent approach to providing affordable rental homes," the NSW minister for planning, Anthony Roberts, told the Sydney Morning Herald recently.

In its submission to the draft Greater Sydney Region Plan, the NSW Federation of Housing Associations has pointed out that there needs to be an amendment of SEPP 70 to recognise, as the district plans do, the pressing need for affordable housing throughout the region.

“It is critical to give local councils a framework to utilise the provisions of section 94F and 94G of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to seek contributions for affordable housing as a condition of development approval,” says the Federation of Housing Associations.

While this move by the government has not gone as far as forcing developers to provide affordable housing if they want their plans approved, the chief executive of the Federation of Housing Associations, Wendy Hayhurst, says the inclusion of the five councils in SEPP 70 was a "sign of movement" by the state government. 

According to spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment, changes to the state policy governing affordable rental housing are "a step towards boosting the number of affordable rental homes in Sydney."

"These proposed changes will facilitate affordable housing in future rezonings in the respective local government areas."

The spokesperson added that "all draft District Plans prepared by the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) propose a 5-10 percent affordable rental housing target subject to viability in all local government areas in Greater Sydney, in locations where land is rezoned."