Affordable Housing in NSW—a Changing Landscape

Studio News / Projects

Housing affordability remains a vexing issue in NSW. The COVID19 pandemic has seen more households unable to service their housing costs, putting a spotlight on the issue.

DesignInc Sydney - Military Road Boarding House
A new generation boarding house providing high quality affordable housing on Military Road, Cremorne, in Sydney’s Inner North. Photo by Sandor Duzs.

The NSW government is looking at consolidating existing controls into a single ‘Housing Diversity State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP)’, combining a range of residential housing typologies – including new generation boarding houses, seniors living and student housing – into one code. As specialists in affordable housing design, we are interested in opportunities that the legislative changes may bring.

A history of affordable housing in NSW

With the ongoing supply and affordability crisis in the Sydney housing market, in 2009 the NSW Government introduced the ‘Affordable Rental Housing (ARH) SEPP’, allowing private investors and non-for-profit housing organisations to develop new generation boarding houses. This housing typology provides low-cost housing for those who don’t want—or can’t afford—typical apartments or single-dwelling homes for a broad range of demographics.

New generation boarding houses

With more than 20 projects built, approved or in design development, Ian Armstrong, Director of DesignInc Sydney, has been at the forefront of designing new generation boarding houses in Sydney since the current legislation was introduced over a decade ago. Catering for tertiary students, young professionals, middle-aged people, divorcees and retired people, amongst others, new generation boarding houses have private self-contained studios with ensuite bathrooms and kitchenettes. They also offer communal living and outdoor areas. ‘The communal areas become the heart of the boarding house, providing shared space that allows residents to socialise and develop a community feel,’ says Ian. ‘We link communal and outdoor areas together to maximise flexibility and use, and also include shared kitchen areas, in addition to the kitchenettes, to support social activities.’

We link communal and outdoor areas together to maximise flexibility and use, and also include shared kitchen areas, in addition to the kitchenettes, to support social activities.

Ian Armstrong
Director, DesignInc Sydney

A range of our recent projects—located in inner-suburban neighbourhoods such as Potts Point, Camperdown, Surry Hills and Cremorne—offer convenient access to urban amenities. Being near public transport reduces the need for automobile ownership, and bicycle racks and sometimes motorcycle spaces are provided within the buildings.

Located in a heritage precinct, the bespoke design of Military Road Boarding House successfully balances the privacy of residents with shared community facilities while sensitively fitting with the surrounding area. Each studio boasts a high level of amenity, including a generous indoor-outdoor communal spaces and well-designed self-contained rooms with natural light, ventilation, timber sun shade and privacy screens. Offering a liveable and connected lifestyle for residents through shared facilities.

Kellett Street Boarding House in Potts Point reactivates an underutilised corner. The internal planning is designed around a central staircase and lift, which provide access to the communal areas on the top floor. An east-facing living space receives morning light and offers a view toward the eastern suburbs, and a north-facing outdoor area is a relaxed sun-filled space with a barbeque and seating.

G Accommodation in Foveaux Street Surry Hills has multiple communal living spaces, including a street-level café and courtyard and rooftop deck with city views. Self-contained studios are designed to bring in natural light and ventilation and offer well-planned kitchenettes and ensuites to maximise the sense of space. “We focus a lot of design thinking on the planning and materiality to create the best possible living environment to maximise user amenity,” Ian says.

G Accommodation was recognised as being benchmark in affordable housing design, receiving the 2018 Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) NSW Crown Group Award for Excellence in Affordable Development.

DesignInc Sydney - Foveaux Street Student Housing
Student housing in Surry Hills. Photo by Sandor Duzs.

We focus a lot of design thinking on the planning and materiality to create the best possible living environment to maximise user amenity.

Ian Armstrong
Director, DesignInc Sydney

Additional projects include a boarding house Randwick which is designed to complement detached houses and three-to-four-storey apartment buildings that make up the character of the neighbourhood. All rooms have cross ventilation and balconies, and landscaping makes the building feel more like a detached house. In Glebe, tender documentation has been completed for a 17-studio new generation boarding house that looks like a contemporary four-storey multi-residential block and sensitively responds to its surrounding built and natural environment.

Next steps—the Housing Diversity SEPP

From July to September 2020, details of the proposed Housing Diversity SEPP were exhibited for public input. To see the full range of documents, go to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website.

Changes to facilitate more social housing are also proposed and three new diverse housing types—build-to-rent housing, student housing and co-living—are being introduced to provide more housing options for the people of NSW.

Housing Diversity SEPP, Explanation of Intended Effect
NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

As experts in this field with a continuing passion to design and delivery high amenity equitable housing in NSW, DesignInc remains abreast of legislative changes affecting this sector.