Boarding houses provide an affordable and compact form of rental accommodation for a range of occupants including singles, retirees, students and young couples. Small private rooms are offset by indoor and outdoor communal areas.
The planning provisions for this type of housing were transferred from the (now repealed) State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021 (Housing SEPP) when it was made in November 2021. Read more about the Housing SEPP.
Under the Housing SEPP, boarding houses:
- must be used for affordable housing in perpetuity
- must be managed by a registered community housing provider in perpetuity
- attract a 25% floor space ratio bonus (on land where residential flat buildings are permitted with consent)
- must meet minimum standards for communal living areas, communal open space, and landscaping
- must demonstrate compatibility with the character of the local area or the desired future character for areas under transition.
A new planning pathway has been introduced to allow the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) to self-assess some boarding house proposals. This pathway was extended to the Aboriginal Housing Office on 1 July 2022.
Some of the planning provisions for boarding houses are currently being reviewed. Learn more about this review on the NSW Planning Portal.
Frequently asked questions
Boarding houses must provide affordable housing in perpetuity and must be managed by registered community housing providers (CHPs). Registered CHPs must apply the NSW Affordable Housing Ministerial Guidelines.
The new provisions do not apply retrospectively. They will not impact boarding houses that have already been approved or built. However, the new provisions will apply where an application is lodged for major alterations or additions to an existing boarding house.
LAHC and the AHO are permitted to self-assess their boarding house developments under certain circumstances.
These agencies are allowed to self-assess these developments because:
- they deliver social housing, which is a strategic priority in the government’s 10-year vision for social housing, Future Directions for Social Housing in NSW,
- they both have published guidelines which inform the design and assessment of their developments, and
- from 1 July 2022, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 requires these agencies to publish certain information about self-assessed developments with a capital investment value (CIV) of over $5 million on their websites or the NSW Planning Portal.
LAHC boarding house developments that are being self-assessed must consider Good design for social housing (PDF, 3.5 MB) and Land and Housing Corporation Dwelling Requirements (PDF, 421 KB), both dated September 2020.
AHO boarding house developments that are being self-assessed must address the relevant provisions of the Aboriginal Housing Design Guidelines, dated January 2020.
Boarding houses are no longer mandated as a permissible use in the R2 Low Density Residential zone. These changes seek to reduce the impact of boarding house development on the local character of low-density areas, such as privacy, noise, loss of enjoyment of private open space, loss of on-street car parking and traffic impacts.
Some councils have elected to continue permitting boarding houses in the R2 zone through their local environmental plans. To find out if boarding houses are permitted in the R2 zone for your local area, check the local environmental plan on the NSW Legislation website.
It was important to make a clear distinction between apartments in a residential flat building and boarding houses. One way this has been done is by setting maximum sizes for private rooms in boarding houses. The smaller room size for boarding houses will be offset by the shared spaces and communal facilities provided in these developments.
The parking rate for boarding houses in accessible areas has been reduced from 0.5 spaces per room to 0.2 spaces per room. This change aims to encourage the development of boarding houses in well-located areas and support active and public transport use.
An amendment to the Housing SEPP on 1 July 2022 removed motorcycle and bicycle parking minimum standards from the SEPP. The relevant consent authority will still need to be satisfied that there is adequate bicycle and motorcycle parking available on site, but the SEPP no longer specifies a minimum number of spaces.
The same amendment extended an existing self-assessment pathway for boarding houses delivered by the Land and Housing Corporation to the Aboriginal Housing Office.
Page last updated: 16/01/2023