This townhouse on Stuart Street, Perth, WA 6000, Sold for $965,000 on 05 Dec 2022 IMAGE Peard
This townhouse on Stuart Street, Perth, WA 6000, Sold for $965,000 on 05 Dec 2022 IMAGE Peard
  • Planning Minister Rita Saffioti released Western Australia's first ever medium density planning policy.
  • The minister said "We need more places for young people to be ale to enter into the housing market." 
  • UDIA said quality infill projects add immensely to community housing choice, vibrancy and amenity.

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti has today released Western Australia’s first ever planning policy to guide medium density development across the State.

The Medium Density Housing Code is the culmination of more than three years of research, consultation and testing to support an improved quality of housing that better suits the needs of a modern community.

The Minister said “We know that we need to build more homes in WA for more people. And what we are doing through all these reforms, is encouraging more homes and a diversity of homes.

She said “Ultimately, we don’t want to be like other places in Australia, like Sydney, where homes are simply unaffordable. We want to keep affordability, we want to keep housing choice. We want to make sure that we have a planning system that’s consistent across the state.”

Medium density set to rise

The medium density policy is a new part of WA’s unique Residential Design Codes (R Codes). It focuses on homes that are sized appropriately and suit the context of the land, as well as delivering better outcomes in the design of living spaces and for the sustainability and efficiency of new homes.

Minister Saffioti said: “As our population grows, our housing needs are changing, and medium density developments are becoming more and more common across our neighbourhoods.

Rita Saffoti, 2nd from left, tweeted: "Great to be in the City to mark the start of main construction for Edith Cowan Uni City. IMAGE: Twitter
Rita Saffoti, 2nd from left, tweeted: “Great to be in the City to mark the start of main construction for Edith Cowan Uni City. IMAGE: Twitter

“We need to ensure that our planning policies keep up with the changing housing needs of the community, and the Medium Density Housing Code will deliver better designed homes into the future.

“Current medium density residential development is resulting in a lack of housing diversity and affordability, loss of trees in many suburbs and limited access to natural lighting and ventilation which – as a result – increases costs for the homeowner” she said.

Putting what really matters first

The new policy was informed by more than 220 community and industry submissions, tested and trialled by 24 leading architects and builders, reviewed by eight local government authorities and analysed for feasibility and affordability against 38 home designs created for the new code. Minister Saffoti expressed gratitude for their contribution.

Minister Saffoti said, “The new policy addresses what really matters to people – having choice about how and where they want to live, reducing their energy bills and making housing choices that prioritise good natural light, less concrete, more greenery and local amenity.

“The policy will also address the loss of neighbourhood tree canopies with incentives to be provided where existing trees are retained, and a requirement for new trees to be planted in all medium density developments.

“The transition period for the new policy will be six months for typical infill development and two years for greenfield development, which provides certainty for people with existing house and land packages and financing arrangements.

Developers welcome the code

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA WA) has welcomed the long-anticipated finalisation of the Code.

UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck said, “As an industry, we have been seeking greater certainty and clarity around the design and delivery of medium density housing for many years.

“The final policy seeks to strike the right balance between affordability, amenity and accessibility in the future design of medium density housing providing a clear framework for the development industry to operate within,” Ms Steinbeck said.

Ms Steinbeck said there has been too much delivery of unsophisticated medium density housing over recent years. She said that it needed a strong policy response, like this one, to ensure high quality housing is produced whilst not adding further compliance costs that threaten affordability.

“It is important to understand that there are also many examples of medium density done well where quality infill projects have added immensely to the local area in respect to housing choice, vibrancy and amenity,” Ms Steinbeck said.

Two-stage implementation

In response to public consultation and feedback from industry, the policy will be subject to a two-stage implementation program.

Current policy settings will continue to apply until 1 September 2023 to allow decision makers to become familiar with the new code. Residential builders and local governments will advise landowners on the relevant code that will apply when designing and assessing house plans.

A further two-year transition period will apply until the end of August 2025 for purchasers of house and land packages in new estates to finalise their current contracts.

Ms Steinbeck said, “As with any new public policy, it is crucial that the State Government do not ‘set & forget’ and maintain close dialogue with industry throughout the implementation journey which they have committed to do.

“The development industry is aligned and committed to achieving the intent of the Medium Density Code in creating more liveable, sustainable homes for decades to come,” she said.

The State’s first ever Medium Density Housing Code will deliver:

  • improved tree canopy across suburbs with incentives for the retention of existing trees and the requirement for new trees and deep soil areas to be included in all new developments;
  • delivery of more housing diversity through a new deemed-to-comply pathway for terrace-style homes, and the requirement for a range of dwelling types in larger grouped and multiple dwelling developments;
  • improved housing design with new requirements around minimum living and garden sizes and the need for them to be linked, and the orientation of new homes to deliver better energy efficiency and natural light;
  • better neighbourhood amenity with consistent street setbacks and the requirement for new developments to consider impacts on neighbouring properties including noise, privacy, outlook, vehicle access and parking; and
  • site area concessions and the removal of occupancy restrictions to incentivise the development of gold level accessible houses and encourage greater housing diversity and opportunity for ageing in place.


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