Development applications (DAs) could soon be fast-tracked in a bid to resolve the state’s dire housing crisis.
Desperate to get more people into homes sooner to reach its target of an additional 900,000 homes by 2041, the NSW Government is holding local councils accountable, including those in the Hunter region.
Figures show 95% of DAs move through councils.
Under new guidelines, they will be tasked with the acceleration of DA assessments, asked to limit the requests for unnecessary further information, and to reduce the number of withdrawing proposals.
Since July 2021, a total of 9,040 applications have been withdrawn, averaging 70 withdrawals per council.
While some councils had no withdrawals, 15 councils had more than 200.
In the Hunter, the number of withdrawn DAs match the state average, with Maitland City Council reporting 71 in the past 12 months, Lake Macquarie City Council 116 for the same period, and City of Newcastle at 85.
The withdrawal of DAs by councils is being blamed for delays in the housing industry.
“The only way we’re going to get people off the housing waitlist is by getting them into homes. We need to do everything we can to expedite the delivery of more housing,” said Minister for Housing Rose Jackson.
“These reforms are a strong step in the right direction to help build a reliable supply of social and affordable housing in NSW.”
National Housing Accord data indicates the state has a projected housing construction shortfall of 376,000 homes over five years.
The guidelines also require councils to direct adequate resources to their planning and assessment teams to fast-track DA assessments.
The Minns government will monitor the performance of councils in assessing development applications to ensure they are meeting expectations outlined in the new guidelines.
“We want to support councils by providing guidelines that make it clearer about when it is appropriate to withdraw a DA and when it is not,” said Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully.
“This clarity is needed to get more homes delivered and to clear what’s approved.”
Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig said current systems were unacceptable.
“It’s beyond belief that more than 9000 DAs have been withdrawn since July 2021 and it’s definitely not acceptable in the middle of a housing crisis,” he explained.
“I’m concerned there may be instances of councils asking applicants to withdraw applications rather than assessing them, in a bid to reduce their DA processing timeframes.
“Council staff should make every effort to resolve issues before asking applicants to withdraw DAs, which can ultimately lead to less housing stock.
“We need to increase our housing supply in NSW, and we need to act now to speed up the DA process.
“Councils have a critical role in the planning process and we need them to work with us to get more people into homes sooner across our state.”
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