Get development approval
Whether you’re refurbishing an existing dwelling or building a new development, 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 your site and to incorporate these considerations into your design.
Review local development controls
The design of your project will be heavily influenced by the development controls which determine what is allowed on your site.
If you haven’t acquired land already, a consideration in the selection of your site may be the development controls that govern what can be developed there. You’ll want to make sure that the relevant controls allow for the type of development you’d like to put there.
One of the first steps in designing your project 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 any restrictions on the number of dwellings allowed.
Talk to council
Most councils will allow you 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 you (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 (for example, as a granny flat, as a dual-occupancy, or as a multi-dwelling development) as this will determine which controls apply to your site.
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 cohousing and intentional community developments, and it may help their assessment process if they can understand what your project is aiming to achieve.
Key things to consider
Your project 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. If you’re adding to the number of dwellings or bedrooms on a site, you may need to consider whether you can meet parking requirements, or talk to your council about whether there is flexibility in these requirements.
The Building Code of Australia requires that multi-dwelling developments have firewalls separating dwellings for safety reasons, so you’ll need to be aware of how your development is categorised in order to understand those kinds of requirements.
Your title and ownership arrangements may also impact the development approvals process—for example, some council areas specify minimum lot sizes for strata developments. You’ll need to be aware of how land title relates to development assessment as you’re devising the ownership arrangements for your project.
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