Low Rise Housing Diversity Code has now commenced in Illawarra and all NSW Councils

Town Planning
Low Rise Housing Diversity Code has now commenced in Illawarra and all NSW Councils

The Low Rise Housing Diversity Code (the Code) first commenced in NSW on 6 July 2018. However, several Councils including Wollongong, Illawarra, Kiama and Shoalhaven Councils requested a temporary deferral from the Code to amend their local planning controls to prepare for the Code. From 1 July 2020 the Code now operates across NSW with no further deferrals supported by the State Government.

The Code means that certain development including dual occupancies, manor houses and terraces can be carried out under a fast-tracked complying development approval. Council or a Private Certifying Authority can issue Complying Development Certificates which can dramatically reduce the assessment period for applications. Complying development is a fast track approval process that does not require Council approval if the proposal strictly complies with the development standards.


// Speak to our Town Planning team to see how we can help you fast track your development approval.


What is Low Rise Medium Density?

The Low Rise Housing Diversity Code (the Code) was introduced by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) to improve housing affordability by providing diverse housing to meet the needs of the growing and changing population. The type of development under the Code is referred to as the “missing middle” which is development forms that are somewhere between low density development such as single dwelling houses and high density development such as residential flat buildings (apartments). The diagram below illustrates the typical forms in the “missing middle”.

  DM19198 Domain Research House Report Diagram xwm5ho

Types of development available for the low-rise medium density under the code include:


Dual Occupancy - 1 to 2 story dual occupancies (attached or detached) 

A dual occupancy is essentially two (2) self-sufficient dwelling houses and they are often called a duplex. A dual occupancy proposal under the code can be undertaken where an existing dwelling will be retained and a new dwelling will be constructed (attached or detached) if the existing dwelling house can meet the standards in the Code. Both dwellings in a dual occupancy development under the Code are required to face a public road. This means dual occupancies with one dwelling behind the other will only work on a corner lot or where there is two frontages i.e. a rear lane. The two diagrams below show an example of an attached dual occupancy (side by side) and a detached dual occupancy (corner – one behind the other).

 Dual Occ

Manor houses (2 story buildings comprising 3 to 4 dwellings) and Dual Occupancies (One above the Other)

Manor house means a building containing 3 or 4 dwellings, where:

  • (a) each dwelling is attached to another dwelling by a common wall or floor, and
  • (b) at least 1 dwelling is partially or wholly located above another dwelling, and
  • (c) the building contains no more than 2 storeys (excluding any basement).

Dual occupancy (attached) means 2 dwellings on one lot of land that are attached (one above the other) to each other, but does not include a secondary dwelling. Manor Houses and Dual Occupancies are allowed in R1, R2, R3 and RU5 zones where this type of housing is already permitted under the relevant council's Local Environmental Plan (LEP).

 Manor houses + dual occ 


Multi dwelling housing (terraces) means multi dwelling housing where all dwellings are attached and face the street, and are generally aligned along, 1 or more public roads.

 Multi Dwelling


The code also provides for subdivision of certain low-rise medium density development that complies with the relevant standards to be carried out as complying development.


Where does the Code Apply?

From 1st July 2020, the code applies to residential land in New South Wales zoned R1, R2, R3 and RU5 and permitted under your councils like Local Environmental Plan (LEP). Each site must meet the minimum lot size requirements under the Local Environmental Plan and if none is specified for dual occupancies, the minimum lot size is 400 m² under the code and 600 m² for manor houses and terraces. Several Councils have amended their LEPs or are in the process of amending their LEPs through Planning Proposals to respond to the Code and change the minimum standards in the LEP that relate to the minimum lot size for dual occupancies, manor houses and multi dwelling housing as well as minimum lot sizes for subdivisions. This is something that we will confirm through a Preliminary Review through our local knowledge and in depth understanding of LEPs.  

 Similar to other complying development, there are standard land-based exclusions that apply that mean complying development is not allowed on certain land, including heritage items, heritage conservation areas, environmentally sensitive areas and land reserved for public acquisition. It is a simple check to work out if complying development can or cannot be considered on the land through a Section 10.7 planning certificate from Council and a desktop review. We will undertake a preliminary site check to determine if there are any exclusions that apply to the site and any title restrictions that may impact the proposal. Other site considerations, including flooding and bushfire does not automatically knock out a property from complying development, however, for high risk areas complying development may not suitable and it may require the lodgement of a development application with Council instead.  


What Development Standards apply? 

Development standards for excavation, fill, retaining walls and structural supports, drainage, protected tree requirements and protection of adjoining walls associated with the development are provided under Division 6 of the Code.

 The key development eligibility standards include:

  • Maximum building height
  • Minimum site width
  • Minimum distances from neighbouring homes.
  • Maximum Floor Space Ratio requirements
  • Compliance with minimum floor area requirements
  • Compliance with boundary/building setbacks and alignments.
  • Landscaping requirements.
  • Number of Car Parking Spaces
  • Privacy restrictions.


As Town Planners at MMJ Planning and Advisory, we can play a crucial role identifying the sites compliance capability to meet the high-level constraints, that would permit the desired development type under this code. Following this, we would continue to engage with the project architect/designer and consultants to ensure the development strictly meets the guideline standards along with providing compliance statement for submission to the Principle Certifying Authority (PCA).


How do I get approval?

The process for complying development is similar to the development application process, however, the timeframes and costs associated are substantially reduced.

Our Town Planners can manage your project throughout the CDC application process to ensure that your site and the proposed development meets the requirements of the Codes prior to committing to the project. We will work with the Private Certifier, Accredited Building Designer, Engineer, and other consultants required to ensure a smooth and streamlined process. Given the complex nature of the NSW Planning System, the detailed compliance assessment required and Private Certification, Private Certifiers often prefer to be at arms-length in the initial planning process. We will prepare a Town Planning Report for the CDC Compliance Assessment the relevant clauses in the Code and we will also provide input to the design review the Accredited Building Designer’s "Design Verification Statement" to ensure the Low Rise Housing Diversity Code Guidelines are met. Town Planners can also identify early in the process if Complying Development is suitable or a Development Application is necessary.

This will save time and money for you as the client and will mean you can get your development out of the ground as quickly as possible.

Development Process
 View larger.

How do I know if complying development is suitable for my development?

Many of our clients will come to us at the early stages of either purchasing land or looking at a sites capability for redevelopment opportunities. The process is no different under the Low Rise Housing Diversity Code where we would review a sites environmental and physical constraints to understand if the land is suitable for redevelopment under the code.


In speaking to industry professionals, it is clear that the services of Town Planners will still have a pivotal role in the process in determining the permissibility of low and medium density development along with overseeing the design phase to ensure strict compliance is being achieved. We also take on responsibility for reviewing and advising that contextually and aesthetically individual developments are responding to the strategic context, and the built and evolving environment.



  • Expediated delivery of housing supply across NSW
  • Streamlined approvals process and fast approvals times reduce holding costs
  • Standardised development standards that cannot be varied, therefore providing consistent development forms
  • Increased certainty and reduced risk in the Development Approval process
  • Can benefit certain suburbs by providing low & medium density development where otherwise may be sought for high rise development



  • Reduced opportunity for Council and community consultation, that can result in long term strategic disparity
  • Opportunity for developments to exacerbate infrastructure shortfalls or serviceability in certain area
  • No ability to request a variation that responds to site constraints or specific design measures

Whilst there are always pros and cons when new policies and legislations are introduced, the overarching consensus is that the Low Rise Housing Diversity Code will provide a positive injection of housing availability throughout NSW, along with the flow on benefits for the construction industry.


Is this a feasible option for me?

Our in-house Planning & Advisory team can undertake an initial feasibility assessment of redeveloping your site. With expert knowledge in market assessment, the feasibility will consider the current land value including any buildings on the land, the cost to demolish (if required), the cost to construct and the anticipated profit margin and residual land value.


Regardless of what phase your development is at, speak to our Town Planning team to see how we can help you fast track your development approval.