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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release March 2004

Replacement of SEPP5 - Daily Telegraph Report

Hi SOS Members

SOS has long been agitating about the inequities of the notorious SEPP5. This is the policy that allows multi-units to be built willy-nilly in areas zoned for single residential under the guise of being for older people, so bypassing local Council planning controls. It functions as an excuse for yet more high-density to be inflicted onto protesting communities. See our Daily Telegraph article of February 2001 headed "Battle to save our peaceful way of life".

In November 2003 Planning Minister Craig Knowles indicated that the government was backing away from its high-density policies, using words that SOS had been advocating such as "balanced State development" (which you can examine in our Policies on our website).

Now a further indication that the State Government is at last listening to community groups such as SOS is shown by a review that has been conducted called "Housing Strategy for Older People and People with a Disability". Some recommendations from this review are encouraging. The policy seems to be moving away from being just another means of cramming more people into our suburbs to something that is actually becoming concerned with the needs of the elderly and infirm. Recommendations include:

Unfortunately the review still allows multi-units in single-residential areas (which it calls "infill development") but the requirements will be much tighter than previously.

For example, only single storeys will be allowed to the rear of the site to prevent overlooking of neighbours, car spaces over one must be counted in the total floor area and there will be stricter accessibilty and adaptability standards to cater for less mobile people. If these requirements are effectively implemented, it should become more difficult for developers to profitably get away with the abuses currently associated with SEPP5.

So the signs continue to indicate that we are gradually succeeding in our efforts to get high-density policies replaced. Unfortunately it takes much effort and time to reverse such policies, rather like reversing a huge ocean liner. The changes may come too late for many unfortunate people threatened by overdevelopment next to them. But the future is beginning to look brighter for us all in the long term.

SOS was quoted in an article on this topic that appeared in the weekend Daily Telegraph on Saturday 20th March 2004. This was a one and half page special feature at the start of the Real Estate Section.

Daily Telegraph
Real Estate

The walls have years

How homes will change as people live longer
As aged Australians begin to outnumber first-home buyers, experts look to a 'universal' design. JULIE HUFFER reports

High-rise retirement villages, a surge in medium density development and "universal" homes lasting a lifetime. This is where Sydney's residential property market is heading as the population ages and the proportion of first-home buyers declines.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates within seven years 24 per cent of Sydney's population will be ages 55-plus and by 2021, one third of the state will be occupied by this demographic. The 85-plus age group is currently growing faster than any other sector.
And while some seniors are heading north, the majority - who are expected to live and work much longer than their predecessors - remain in detached housing built 30 years ago or more.

This poses a challenge for planners: if older people don't move from large freestanding homes in areas designed for cars, homes will need to be built on the fringe to house child-rearing families.

If urban sprawl is to be prevented, there needs to be a wider choice of housing that enables seniors to remain in their communities, as evidence suggests they prefer to do.

To date SEPP5, the state's housing policy for older people and those with a disability, has had only limited success and this month it is being replaced with a new Seniors Living Policy.

The new policy proposes the development of "in-fill" housing in existing neighbourhoods; large-scale retirement villages in urban edge locations such as Blacktown, Camden, Warringah, Hornsby, Liverpool and Sutherland; and vertical housekeeping in Sydney's urban areas.

Save our Suburbs president Dr Tony Recsei has welcomed the move, saying while he still has concerns about medium density infiltrating residential areas, "fake" SEPP5 housing, built by "scallywag" developers, should disappear and be replaced with genuine aged housing.

The policy paves the way for controls that could require new housing to be made accessible for people of all ages and abilities (following the UK standards adopted in 1999). This would include wide doorways for wheelchairs, rails in bathrooms and kitchen benches able to be raised or lowered.

A senior policy officer with the NSW Council on the Ageing, Brenda Bailey, says "universal" design is the way forward and if such modifications became standard, they wouldn't be expensive.

AV Jennings is developing a concept of adaptable housing for life. National marketing manger Tim Redway says the future lies in homes with flexible floor plans and moveable walls. "A four-bedroom home could become a single bedroom with guest room and various activity rooms for hobbies such as model trains or computers, which older people are really getting into."

But the National Housing Industry Association director of planning and environment, Wayne Gersbach, says suggestions that 100 per cent of new housing should be able to be modified over time is overdoing it. "The industry would obviously want to be part of that debate," he says. Gersbach says the government has overlooked the possibility of inter-generational housing.

As land becomes scarce, big houses could accommodate older parents and their children and their kids, he says. This already happens in some families, where both parents are working and need child care support. "It happens fairly loosely outside the law, with granny flats and teenage retreats and I think you have to look at ways to free up that legislation," Gersbach says. "it's about the regulation of what you can do on your own block of land and councils deny you that opportunity."

Meanwhile, agents say older homeowners are showing interest in medium to high-density living. "Older people want low maintenance on one level, they like apartments, but they still want generous living space to accommodate a house full of furniture that they may not yet want to part with," Di Jones agent Debbie Donnelly says.

Studies conducted by BIS Shrapnel forecast empty nesters and retirees will show increased interest in higher density dwellings in the next five years, with a surge in demand from 2008. The 65-plus age group is already growing at a rate of 2 per cent per annum, compared to less that .05 per cent in the first-home buyer category, BIS project manager Jason Anderson says. "As you go forward, the 65-plus group will accelerate to 2.5 per cent growth and will exert influence on the market. The tendency will be for flats, apartments and townhouses."

More attractive and creative designs for this type of housing and improvements to the Strata Management Act will fuel the move, the Real Estate Institute of NSW says.

HOME FOR LIFE'S FOUR SEASONS - A level-headed decision
At 60, Anna De Angelis says she's past maintaining a large house with stairs. And while her husband, 69, has always been fond of gardening, the block they owned at Liverpool for 39 years finally became a chore. So they sold the family home and bought a two-bedroom villa through Re-Max Paradise Realty. "I have a sore back and cleaning two baths and showers was too much," Anna says. "I didn't like to go up and down the stairs. We found this beautiful little villa home at Casula. It's nice and quiet and you can walk to the shops, which is important because I don't drive." Anna says they have surplus money from the sale in the bank ("enough to bury us") and are making additions to their new place.


Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)

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