THE JURY'S still out on new state rules designed to tackle the housing crisis with Hunter councils eager for more detail, while the NSW Liberals have slammed what they call a "one size fits all" approach.
In a media statement, NSW Opposition Leader Mark Speakman and Shadow Minister for Planning Scott Farlow called the plans to change state government planning policies which would override council limits on the types of homes that can be built in low and medium density zones a "lazy" and "ill-thought-through" policy.
They argued the state government has failed to release new housing targets for local councils, allow councils the opportunity to amend local planning laws to meet and exceed new targets and address demand-side pressures on housing.
But as far as Hunter councils are concerned, the changes appear to support work already being done to help tackle the housing crisis across the region.
City of Newcastle (CN) deputy lord mayor Declan Clausen said unlike other councils across the state, the proposed reforms won't impact them as the potential for housing supply in the city's residential zones is less constrained than the majority of NSW Local Environment Plans (LEP).
"CN is delivering on its commitments to good planning and is recognised as a leading council in planning for and prioritising low and mid-rise housing types, such as multi-dwelling housing and residential flat buildings in the R2 low density and R3 medium density residential zones," he said.
"There's a lot of potential for good development and particularly mixed styles of development with good amenity in the City of Newcastle, especially around our renewal corridors and around Broadmeadow as one of our key activation sites."
Newcastle's LEP already provides flexibility with more housing options for low and medium density zones, and at Tuesday night's meeting, councillors will be asked to affirm their support of the state government's reforms.
The city's population is expected to grow by 41,150 residents to 202,050 by 2041 - requiring almost 20,000 new homes.
CN planning and environment executive director Michelle Bisson said she was confident the council was on track to meet its new housing targets.
"Based on the supply pipeline within the Newcastle LGA, CN met the new dwelling demand by 2021 early and is on track to meet its demand for 2026 and 2041," she said.
The council will also call on the state government to roll out its own Accelerated Development Application (ADA) initiative to facilitate faster housing approvals.
According to the CN, its ADA pathway fast-tracked more than 20 per cent of the city's $1.5 billion development pipeline in the 2022-23 financial year, reducing the number of undetermined DAs by 35 per cent since 2017.
A Housing Industry Australia (HIA) Population and Residential Building Hotspots report identified Brunker Road between Adamstown Heights and Broadmeadow, Mayfield, Cooranbong and Raymond Terrace as ideal locations for higher density housing near transport hubs.
The new reforms have the backing of HIA Hunter director Craig Jennion, who said councils have been guilty of intervening in increases in housing and density.
"Anything that removes blockages making it harder to develop housing should certainly be supported," he said.
The changes will include the planning department's Greater Sydney "six cities" region, which covers Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Cessnock and Port Stephens council areas.
Maitland City Council (MCC) strategic planning manager Brett Gardiner said they're waiting on further details to be released.
"What has been announced so far appears to align with and build upon initiatives MCC is already looking at, in an effort to bolster housing choice and create infill opportunities close to transport hubs," he said.
"Many areas close to transport hubs in the Maitland LGA are already zoned R1 General Residential and allow for higher density housing."
Maitland will need about 25,200 extra homes in the region over the next 20 years, and the council is in the process of developing a 'density design guideline document' to give more context to infill opportunities.
It was a similar story for Lake Macquarie council's strategic landuse planning coordinator Matthew Hill, who felt the proposed changes were largely consistent with the council's housing strategy.
"Provided the proposed changes apply to areas near services and facilities and have available transport options, they will largely be consistent with the objectives of our Local Strategic Planning Statement and Housing Strategy," he said.
"We consult the community when preparing planning policy and seek to balance growth with maintaining neighbourhood amenity.
"Proposed building heights will need to be considered carefully to ensure housing objectives are balanced with maintaining local characteristics and amenity."
A council study showed there was unmet demand for more diverse housing types like town houses and apartments that are well-located and well-designed at Lake Macquarie.
Cessnock mayor Jay Suuval welcomed the state government's interest in addressing the issue, but said infill housing alone wouldn't address housing shortages.
"We currently have 22 Urban Release Areas in the Cessnock LGA that will drive tens of thousands of new homes over coming years," he said.
"We need state and federal governments to provide financial support for the critical infrastructure needed to accommodate the population growth flowing from new housing in our region."
He said the flagged changes were unlikely to have a huge impact on Cessnock, given residents are highly reliant on private transport, accounting for 97 per cent of traffic in the area.
"The current proposals are geared towards increasing density limits near key public transport connections," he said.