Streamlined assessment pathway for social and affordable housing programs
Who should read this?
Developers and their advisors involved in community and social housing in Queensland.
Things you need to know
- On 21 October 2022, the Planning Regulation 2017 (Qld) (Planning Regulation) was amended to facilitate increased, and more flexible, development of social and affordable housing in response to the growing housing crisis.
- The legislative amendments have opened up the infrastructure designation assessment pathway to registered community housing providers, and housing provided under State funded programs.
- We anticipate the designation of affordable housing will be facilitated more efficiently than the traditional development approval pathway, given the new infrastructure category is based on the recognised ‘housing emergency’ in Queensland. The designation process also involves a more flexible public consultation process which may further reduce approval time frames.
What you need to do
Consider whether your social or affordable housing may be eligible for assessment under the infrastructure designation pathway, and whether that is more time and cost efficient than a traditional approval pathway.
Following the recent Queensland Housing Summit, the State Government announced its commitment to dedicating $2 billion towards the Housing Investment Fund for social and community housing. The additional $1 billion funding commitment is a critical component of the State Government’s strategy to address the growing housing crisis in Queensland.
The newly amended Planning Regulation enables registered community housing providers and housing provided under State funded programs to use the Ministerial Infrastructure Designation (MID) pathway to develop social and affordable housing. Community housing providers must be ‘registered providers’ under the Housing Act 2003 (Qld) to benefit from this amendment.
The amendment also enables State or local governments to deliver temporary emergency housing in response to a disaster or other event, without seeking approval for a material change of use.
Infrastructure designation process
Infrastructure designation is designed to deliver essential infrastructure and services to support the community.
The assessment process under a MID is facilitated through a number of stages, including engaging with the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning (DSDILGP) for initial advice and preliminary stakeholder engagement.
The primary considerations for the Minister are that:
- the infrastructure will satisfy statutory requirements, or budget commitments, for the supply of the infrastructure; or
- there is, or will be, a need for the efficient and timely supply of the infrastructure.
In addition to assessing land use planning matters, the Minister is also required to consider an environmental assessment, and the relevant assessment benchmarks.
The assessment process focuses on how the proposed development might impact relevant stakeholders and surrounding amenities, rather than considering specific constraints imposed by local government planning schemes or policies.
Once the MID status is granted, proponents are able to proceed with a project without obtaining additional development approvals under the Planning Act 2016 (Qld). However, proponents will still be required to secure approvals for building works under the Building Act 1975 (Qld).
Advantages of infrastructure designations
In practical terms, an infrastructure designation presents an opportunity to reduce costs, assessment time frames and development constraints.
The high level, principle-based assessment process for infrastructure designations does not attract any application fee. Additionally, development under an infrastructure designation is ‘accepted development’. As such, infrastructure charges do not become payable for any initial subdivision, and will instead be levied on completion of building works.
An infrastructure designation is usually granted in broader terms than a development approval, meaning that proponents have greater flexibility in relation to the design specifications for a project.
Importantly, there is greater flexibility in the consultation process with the community. The stakeholder consultation strategy is prepared by the developer and endorsed by the Minister.
There are also no third-party appeal rights available to the community under an infrastructure designation. This means a proposed development under an infrastructure designation cannot be legally challenged by members of the community, or other interested third parties.
How we can help
The changes to the Planning Regulation are intended to provide increased certainty of assessment outcomes and encourage greater private sector investment for social and affordable housing under the infrastructure designation pathway.
We can assist by providing advice on whether a proposed development is eligible to take advantage of the new infrastructure designation regulations, and how to best navigate the assessment and public consultation process. For further information on any of the issues raised in this alert, please contact any of the authors below.
This publication covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases. It is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.