LAKE Macquarie City Council plans to cut red tape and remove roadblocks to development in an effort to ease mounting housing pressure across its suburbs.
A proposal to change the council's planning controls could clear the way for infill housing close to the city's business centres, unlock development in medium density residential areas and provide more housing diversity across 27 suburbs.
CoreLogic data from September 2023 revealed the number of new builds have fallen, building costs have risen and vacancy rates sit at around one per cent across the city, all while rental and housing prices continue to climb.
Just last week, the National Regional Housing Summit in Canberra put solutions to support the region's burgeoning communities under the microscope.
Master Builders Australia (MBA) chief executive Denita Wawn said all levels of government need to work together to remove the biggest roadblocks to regional growth - zoning, planning and integrated land use.
"As regional communities grow into bigger hubs of activity, the type of housing on offer needs to satisfy the needs of everyone in that community. It's not always about building out but building up with appropriate infrastructure and services in place," she said.
"However, the industry's capacity needs to be bolstered in the regions to ensure supply can keep up with demand.
"Governments need to look at how we can ensure the regions are an attractive place for businesses to expand in to and workers to move to."
By 2036, couples without children and single occupants will account for almost half of all households in Lake Macquarie.
According to the council, that trend suggests a demand for smaller dwellings, despite its housing supply being "heavily biased" towards detached dwellings at 84 per cent.
"Lake Macquarie needs to increase the diversity and choice in the types of housing available to ensure housing supply caters for the needs of changing demographics into the future, and ensures we have affordable housing options," a report to councillors for tonight's meeting said.
Last year, the council got a letter from Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully urging it to look at its policy settings to see how it could grow the number of homes in the city.
Changes to Lake Macquarie's controls stem from its overarching Housing Strategy, which is consistent with the state government's focus on a more flexible planning system designed to combat the housing crisis.
As part of that strategy, the council did research into the housing market, livability and affordability to understand the city's housing needs.
It found a demand for infill housing and increased housing diversity close to jobs and services.
The council's proposal would allow for smaller homes, which it argues will offer more choice and improve affordability.
In medium density residential zones and some business zones close to CBDs, the current ten metre height limit would be raised to enable three-storey developments.
While in Charlestown, Windale and Toronto it could allow four to five-storey residential builds.
The changes would permit dual occupancies in some areas and make exceptions to minimum lot sizes for some developments to allow subdivision supported by 'sound design' below 200 square metres.
Boundaries of some medium density residential zones would be expanded to "better support town centres in a sensitive, practical way".
It would also allow for attached dwellings, multi-dwelling housing and flats in low density residential zones.
The plans went on public exhibition in 2021 and received 304 submissions, 241 of which opposed the proposal or elements of it.
Locals raised a number of issues, including the need for infrastructure to support development, concerns about the height of buildings and changes to the character of a suburb as well as an increase in traffic and need for public transport.
The council will vote on the proposal at tonight's meeting.