New guidelines for apartment design in NSW would introduce mandatory balconies and access to open space as well as independent design experts to provide advice to councils.

The proposed planning changes coming in the Apartment Design Guide include:

  • More flexibility around design to suit particular sites
  • Ensuring every new apartment has a balcony and access to well designed and functional shared open space
  • Allowing no car spaces in new apartment buildings in certain council areas within 400 metres of a transport hub like a train station or light rail stop
  • Greater protections from noise in surrounding areas
  • Independent design experts to provide advice to councils
  • Extension of the policy to include mixed used and shop-top housing
  • A minimum size of 35m2 for studio apartments
  • New sections dealing with the adaptive reuse of buildings to apartments
  • Certainty and consistency around standards

Planning Minister Pru Goward said the proposed changes took into account changing demographics in the state, where single-person households are the fastest-growing dwelling type and by “2031 one in five people living in NSW will be aged 65 and over”.

“This means the type of homes our State needs into the future is also changing, with more and more people choosing apartment living with the lifestyle benefits it delivers,” she said.

“In fact, research has shown only 41 per cent of Sydneysiders would choose to live in a detached house, but this type of housing currently makes up 62 per cent of Sydney housing stock. We need to do more to meet the needs of the community and close this gap.”

“Apartment living should not mean that quality is sacrificed – and that is what our changes ensure by setting minimum standards for communal open space, light, air and privacy,” Goward said.

Goward says the policy is part of the NSW Government’s continued efforts to put downward pressure on house prices, provide more housing choice and better reflect changing consumer preferences.

She claimed it could see the cost of a new apartment costs slashed by up to $50,000, where car parking space requirements may be removed.

“Importantly, this change is restricted only to particular councils, applies only to development within close walking distance of transport services, and strongly discourages councils from allowing residents of these buildings to receive street parking permits,” she said.

Developer group the Urban Taskforce supports the changes

“The Urban Taskforce has been involved in the development of these guidelines for apartment living and we believe they are an important benchmark for the industry and the community,” says Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson.

“The main change from an industry perspective is to change the previous Residential Flat Design Code to the Apartment Design Guide. A guide gives much more flexibility in the interpretation of key design issues that supports innovation while achieving the outcomes.”

“The proposal to reduce car parking requirements for apartments within 400 metres of a rail station is an acknowledgement of the preference of many apartment dwellers to use public transport. The minimum requirements still allow more parking if the market supports this.”

“The previous design code had been over ridden by some councils wanting to set their own standards. The new amendments to the State Environmental Planning Policy makes it clear that council development control plans cannot be inconsistent with the Apartment Design Guide. This applies specifically to balconies, solar access and a range of other criteria. The planning policy specifically identifies standards that cannot be used as grounds to refuse development consent including ceiling height, apartment areas and car parking provisions.”

“It is important that the state government sets these standards rather than allowing each individual council to have separate controls.”

“We are keen to look in more detail at the issue of above ground car parking due to the excessive cost of below ground parking. The government may need to review the impact on floor space ratio requirements in this area.”


The NSW Government has called for community input into the proposed changes. They will be on exhibition for public comment until 27 October 2014. Visit