NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Temporary accommodation

People across NSW have been impacted by large scale events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters including bushfires and floods. These events have resulted in people losing homes and struggling to find suitable temporary accommodation.

We are making changes to provide greater certainty and security to those experiencing hardship by making it easier to access temporary accommodation.

The Local Government (Manufactured Homes Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2021 has been updated to help people who need emergency accommodation because of natural disasters or the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temporary emergency accommodation

We have made changes to ensure that residents have access to emergency accommodation. These changes allow temporary caravan parks or camping grounds to be set up, by, or on behalf of a public authority, without approval.

The public authority establishing and operating these sites must ensure that they have appropriate services and that they are safe. Moveable homes, including caravans and self-contained vehicles can be set up in the temporary caravan parks without the need for any additional council approvals.

Any temporary, emergency caravan park or camping ground must be removed within five years of being established. Development consent is required to continue operating the caravan park or camping ground beyond this period.

In April 2022, the NSW Government announced a $350 million investment in temporary modular housing to give people displaced by floods a place to call home while they rebuild their lives. Temporary modular homes will be delivered to provide additional accommodation options to communities impacted by the February and March 2022 storms and floods.

Find out more on the NSW Government floods website.

Installation of a moveable dwelling

People who have been displaced from their homes because of a natural disaster can install a moveable dwelling, such as a caravan, on their land or on other land with the landowner’s consent. These moveable dwellings can be in place for up to two years without the need for council approval.

A moveable dwelling is defined under the Local Government Act and can include a tent, caravan or van used for human habitation. It can also include a manufactured home, which is a self-contained dwelling that is designed to be moved from one position to another.

If a person wishes to stay in the moveable dwelling beyond two years, council approval will be needed. Many councils will have a Local Approvals Policy to facilitate extensions.

While approvals are not required in the first two years, some councils ask that people installing moveable dwellings inform the council of their intention to do so. Councils may be able to offer advice about safe positioning and other matters to minimise impacts on neighbours and the community. Before installing a moveable dwelling it is recommended that you first consider any information on council’s website.


Example: Peter and Sue are unable to live in their home after it was significantly damaged in a bushfire. Peter and Sue can install and stay in a moveable dwelling, on their own or their neighbour's land (provided the neighbour has given consent). They can do this without council approval for up to two years while they rebuild their own home. If Peter and Sue wish to stay beyond two years, they will need to get council approval.

The owner of a dwelling can also install a caravan on land without approval provided it is for use by the owner of the dwelling or their household. The occupant does not need to have been displaced by a natural disaster, but the caravan must be located on the same site as an existing dwelling. There is no timeframe for the removal of a caravan under this exemption.


Example: Alex lives in a house and installs a caravan in the rear yard for the use of her son. The installation and use of the caravan does not require council approval.

Extension of the two-year exemption period for moveable dwellings

Councils can extend the two-year exemption period for the installation of a moveable dwelling. This could be to accommodate a person who has been displaced because of a natural disaster in their Local Government Area.

Councils can do this through their local approvals policies. This will help with temporary accommodation needs caused by natural disasters in their area.

Local approvals policies are made by councils under the Local Government Act. This sets out approval requirements, exemptions, and other considerations for certain activities specified under the Act.

Local Approval Policies to extend the two year exemption period would need to:

  • be publicly exhibited
  • submissions considered
  • approved by the Departmental Chief Executive
  • be adopted by the council.

Extended stays in caravan parks or camping grounds

Managers of caravan parks and camping grounds can authorise people who have been displaced because of a natural disaster or the COVID-19 pandemic to stay for an extended period of up to two-years. This could include moveable dwelling, such as a caravan, in a caravan park or camping ground.

Example: Michael, the manager of a caravan park, can decide to make some caravan spots available to people who have been displaced by a natural disaster or are facing housing insecurity due to the pandemic. If Michael is reasonably satisfied that a person is displaced because of a natural disaster or a pandemic, he can allow them to install their caravan in his caravan park and stay for up to two years.

Councils can modify conditions for camping grounds

Councils have the flexibility to modify conditions for primitive camping grounds. These are generally basic camping grounds that have limited facilities. They could be used to temporarily re-locate people during an emergency or natural disaster.

Councils can adjust the conditions for a primitive camping ground, provided they are satisfied it is necessary for accommodating people who have lost their homes as a result of a natural disaster. Such conditions could relate to spacing, the maximum number of caravans, campervans and tents and length of stay.

Further information

  • Read our frequently asked questions (PDF, 74 KB) to learn more about temporary accommodation
  • To understand what help is available to you following a disaster please phone Service NSW on 13 77 88

Page last updated: 08/11/2022