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Is there a New South Wales housing solution on the way?

Is there a New South Wales housing solution on the way?

In something of a ground-breaking move to address the housing affordability crisis in New South Wales, the government has unveiled a plan to expedite the construction of homes by fast-tracking buildings that choose pre-approved designs. This initiative aims to ease the burden on prospective buyers and renters who have long struggled to find affordable housing options.

Under the leadership of the New South Wales government architect, Abbie Galvin, the government is collaborating with private-sector architects and the community to create a pattern book of endorsed housing designs suitable for low-rise and mid-rise buildings up to six storeys in height. The approach seeks to ensure the designs will not only be aesthetically pleasing but also practical for residents.

One aspect of this initiative is the launch of an international competition that invites Australian and international architects, as well as architecture schools, to design 21st-century Sydney terraces and mid-rise apartments. The winning designs will be incorporated into the pattern book, providing developers who choose to adopt them with an accelerated approval pathway. This means builders can start construction sooner, and new homes can be occupied quicker.

The competition details will be announced in early 2024, with winning architects offered the opportunity to shape the future of housing in Sydney.

Despite its higher population, New South Wales lags behind Victoria and Queensland in terms of new constructions per person. In a bid to address the housing supply shortfall, which has been a major driver of rising house prices and soaring rents, the New South Wales government is committed to supply solutions.

The supply and availability of building-industry labour will remain a bottleneck; however, if the NSW Minns government does not mandate unionised labour – a common practice in commercial and infrastructure construction in Labor-governed states – prices may remain modest.

The government’s focus on low-rise and mid-rise terraces and apartments in well-located areas near transport, green spaces, amenities, and jobs is a strategic move. This approach not only supports higher density but also aligns with the changing housing preferences of many Australians.

The pattern book will encompass various styles of housing, all designed with the specific needs of Sydney and New South Wales in mind. These modern homes will be tailored to the local climate, emphasising natural light and incorporating community spaces for residents to enjoy.

While participation in this initiative is optional for developers, the government will encourage public involvement in the process. Draft designs will be made available for public viewing and feedback, ensuring that community interests are considered.

Importantly, and in addition to the pattern book and design competition for low and medium-rise dwellings, the government is streamlining the approval process for high-rise apartments, beginning with well-located areas supported by robust transport infrastructure. Developers will have the option to select a designer from a pre-approved list, bypassing the requirement for a design competition. This is expected to significantly reduce assessment times by 6-12 months, ensuring speed and acceptable design.

Clearly, the potential for corruption of the relationship between developer and architect is ever-present, and one hopes the New South Wales Labor government does something to mitigate the potential for rorting.

This is an innovative approach to housing construction and it holds the promise of transforming the housing landscape in New South Wales. But while it offers hope to those who have long struggled to find affordable homes the program affords corrupt architects, builders, developers and government officials the opportunity to corrupt the program. 

The plan could be the key to unlocking a brighter housing future for the people of Sydney provided every step is transparent and appropriately regulated.


Roger Montgomery is the Founder and Chairman of Montgomery Investment Management. Roger has over three decades of experience in funds management and related activities, including equities analysis, equity and derivatives strategy, trading and stockbroking. Prior to establishing Montgomery, Roger held positions at Ord Minnett Jardine Fleming, BT (Australia) Limited and Merrill Lynch.

This post was contributed by a representative of Montgomery Investment Management Pty Limited (AFSL No. 354564). The principal purpose of this post is to provide factual information and not provide financial product advice. Additionally, the information provided is not intended to provide any recommendation or opinion about any financial product. Any commentary and statements of opinion however may contain general advice only that is prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial circumstances or needs. Because of this, before acting on any of the information provided, you should always consider its appropriateness in light of your personal objectives, financial circumstances and needs and should consider seeking independent advice from a financial advisor if necessary before making any decisions. This post specifically excludes personal advice.

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