Seniors Living – Housing SEPP Amendment

The first housekeeping amendment to the new NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing SEPP) 2021 was released Friday March 18, which has clarified and corrected a number of issues in the initial drafting of the seniors housing part of the Housing SEPP (November 2021).

Ethos Urban undertook a policy review and research paper for the Housing Policy team at the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) which then informed the seniors housing provisions of the Housing SEPP. This gives us a unique insight into the intent of the legislation. Since commencement of the Housing SEPP in November 2021, Ethos Urban has been closely liaising with DPE in the identification of drafting issues and advocating for the following four amendments to be made to ensure the planning intent of the legislation is maintained.

Key amendments:

  1. 11.5m building height: This development standard was interpreted by the industry to apply to seniors housing in any zone, where the intention is clear that it should only relate to residential zones where residential flat buildings are prohibited. This created much concern as it appeared that all seniors housing, no matter the zone or density, was limited to 11.5m in height. This has now been clarified to apply only in residential zones where residential flat buildings are prohibited (as intended).
  2. R2 Low Density Residential Zones: The provision to allow an “operator” under the Retirement Villages Act 1999 to develop seniors housing in the R2 zone could inadvertently prohibit residential care facilities (RCFs). This has now been clarified with the amendment specifying that only independent living units on R2 zoned land must be provided by an “operator”. It is also noted that subdivision is again permitted in the R2 zone.
  3. Prescribed Zones: The list of zones that the seniors housing part of the Housing SEPP applies to did not identify that they are in fact “prescribed zones”, despite the legislation using term in regard to permissibility threshold tests for the SP1, SP2 and RU2 zones.  This has now been clarified.
  4. State Significant Development (SSD): The Capital Investment Value (CIV) trigger for SSD for seniors housing was $30 million (in Sydney) or $20 million (regionally). This meant for example that a seniors development with a CIV of $31 million would be excluded from the SSD planning pathway. This has now been clarified to read “more than” $30 million (or $20 million) CIV.

Furthermore, a new provision has been inserted into the Housing SEPP that provides the Land and Housing Corporation with effectively “self approval” powers under Part 5 of the EP&A Act for types of low scale seniors housing development, similar to the powers it has had for many years for affordable housing.

Ethos Urban welcomes this first amendment to the Housing SEPP and commends the Housing Policy Team at DPE for continuing to work closely with industry to clarify and correct issues with the operation of the legislation. We look forward to continuing to work with DPE identifying potential issues and most importantly identifying ways to strengthen the ability of the Housing SEPP to increase the supply of seniors housing in NSW.

You can find other articles relating to the State Housing SEPP below:



For more information on the new Housing SEPP and to understand the implications it could have for your future development, contact Daniel West or Tom Goode.

Daniel West

Daniel West

Director | Sydney