Manage development approval 

Your collaborative housing development will need to be approved by your local government. Local government development controls will have a significant impact upon the size, features, and design of your development, so it will be important to understand what is allowed on the site you have identified and to incorporate these considerations into your group’s design.

Land zoning places restrictions on whether multi-unit developments can be built on certain sites. You’ll need to make sure that the zoning and other development controls permit multi-unit developments before you acquire land for your collaborative housing. You’ll also need to make sure that controls such as the floor space ratio and total floor area allowable on a site are within a range that will make your development viable. You’ll also need to think about whether the site is large enough to meet any controls and requirements around parking, setbacks, outdoor spaces and other requirements.

Review local development controls

One of the first steps in designing your collaborative housing development should be understanding the development controls that apply to your site, including the zoning, minimum lot sizes for various development types, floor space ratios (which determine how the size of allowable developments relative to the size of the lot) and the number of dwellings allowed.

Controls relating to subdivisions and title provisions might also affect the land title you can use and the number of separate dwellings allowable on the site. Strata subdivisions, for example, are not allowable on all zones—you’ll need to check this as it will have an influence on the title and ownership arrangements that you can put in place.

Talk to council

Most councils will allow developers to meet with assessment planners prior to submitting an application. This is often called a pre-development application (pre-DA) meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for your prospective collaborative housing group (and your designer/architect) to understand all the relevant controls that apply to your lot, and to ask questions about how various aspects of the application would be assessed. It will be important to understand how council would assess your development application.

It may be useful to share with council some details about your vision for the development, including plans for shared spaces and facilities, and any affordability or other benefits. Governments have historically been supportive of collaborative housing developments, and it may help their assessment process if they can understand what your project is aiming to achieve.

Key things to consider

Your collaborative housing development will need to meet your local government’s development controls that apply to the lot, such as floor space ratios, setbacks, parking requirements, building codes (such as fire separation), and height restrictions.

Most local government areas will specify a minimum parking requirement for each dwelling or for each bedroom. You may need to consider whether you can meet parking requirements, or talk to your council about whether there is flexibility in these requirements. Another possibility is to provide car spaces that are easily adaptable to other uses, which keeps approvers satisfied, while leaving room for the residents to repurpose the space if they feel it is not needed.

Multi-unit developments involve some additional requirements. For example, the Building Code of Australia requires fire separation between units within the same development. You’ll need to make sure that your collaborative housing development meets these standards.

You’ll also need to clearly identify which are your shared spaces and how they’ll be used and managed. Local governments will want to see that you have a plan for these spaces—if they aren’t convinced they’ll operate as shared spaces, they may choose to count them as dwelling spaces, which could have implications for costs and approvals.

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