NSW Department of Planning and Environment

Better apartments


The NSW Government promotes better apartment design across NSW through the State Environmental Planning Policy No 65 - Design Quality of Residential Apartment Development (SEPP 65).

This policy aims to deliver a better living environment for the residents now choosing this form of housing, and enhance our streetscapes and our neighbourhoods across the State.

It does this by establishing a consistent approach to the design and assessment of apartments and the way they are assessed by councils.

The Apartment Design Guide explains how to apply SEPP 65’s design principles to the design of new apartments.

2015 Review of SEPP 65 & Residential Flat Design Code

After more than a decade of operation, a comprehensive review of SEPP 65 was finalised in 2015. The review included extensive community and stakeholder consultation and resulted in a number of changes to the policy, including the overhaul of the Residential Flat Design Code into the Apartment Design Guide.

The changes were made to support further improvements in apartment design, and to help improve housing affordability and supply.

Note: The changes to SEPP 65 were notified on the NSW legislation website on 19 June 2015, and commenced on 17 July 2015.

The changes to SEPP 65 include savings provisions. For apartment development applications lodged prior to 19 June 2015, the Residential Flat Design Code applies.

For apartment development applications lodged after 19 June 2015 and determined after 17 July 2015, the Apartment Design Guide, along with the changes to SEPP 65 apply.

Apartment Design Guide

The Apartment Design Guide provides consistent planning and design standards for apartment development across the State.

The Guide is a useful tool for councils, planners, architects and developers who are planning residential apartments, designing a building, or assessing applications.

The Apartment Design Guide replaces the former Residential Flat Design Code.

SEPP 65 Design Review Panels

SEPP 65 now allows councils to appoint design review panels, which can advise on whether an apartment development meets the design principles and, if not, make recommendations on ways to comply.

Design review panels will conduct site visits and examine how the proposed developments will relate to the streetscape and the neighbourhood. 

More information on the role and functions of the design review panels can be found in the Apartment Design Guide Part 5.

The importance of good apartment design

An apartment design policy is important because:
  • more people are choosing to live in apartments
  • good apartment design can make neighbourhoods more attractive
  • to encourage a more consistent approach to design across the state, more certainty for councils, architects and applicants, and design innovation.

More information

For more information, please call 1300 305 695.

Page last updated: 10/10/2022