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Development assessment pathways

Quarterly Insights Monitor Q4 (April to June 2023)

Development assessment is a key part of the housing supply pipeline and impacts how efficiently new housing is delivered.

New homes are assessed through a number of pathways: Local Development Applications (DAs), Complying Development Certificates (CDCs), Regionally Significant Development (RSDA) and State Significant Development (SSD).

Table 1: NSW Development application pathways for new housing (FY2022-23)
PathwayDeterminations% approvedDwellings approved% of all dwellings
Local DAs24,51297%85,09564%
Total39,260 132,412 
  • SSD: Some major developments are considered State significant due to their size, economic value or potential impact. The Department assesses State significant development applications and, in straightforward cases, can also provide the final determination. In 2022-23, 6% of dwellings were approved under SSD.
  • RSDA: Regionally significant development applications are assessed by local government, but the final decision-maker is an independent planning panel. In 2022-23, 19% of dwellings were approved under RSDA.
  • CDC: For low-impact housing projects, complying development certificates (CDC) provide a pathways for fast-tracked planning and construction approval. The Low Rise Housing Diversity Code contains provisions for a range of development types that qualify for complying development. In some areas, complying development is available for new houses, dual occupancies, terraces and manor houses. CDC is determined by council or an accredited certifier if proposals meet specific development standards. In 2022-23, 11% of new dwellings were approved by CDC.
  • Local DAs: The vast majority of new housing projects are assessed by local councils as part of local DAs. In 2022-23, 64% of new dwellings were approved by DA pathway.

Average Local DA assessment times in NSW have increased from 83 days in 2021-22 to 106 days in 2022-23. The ten councils with the longest average assessment times in 2022-23 take between 172 and 281 days. Most of these councils are in Greater Sydney where the volume and complexity of DAs is typically higher. In comparison, the ten councils with the fastest DA timeframes were all in rural NSW. Average assessment timeframes for the fastest councils in NSW ranged between 27 days and 34 days. Data on council assessment timeframes are available as part of the Planning Performance Dashboard.

Larger and more complex projects, such as residential multi dwellings typically take longer to assess. In 2022-23, average assessment timeframes for multi-unit residential dwellings was 182 days compared to 90 days for single residential dwellings. This is despite a decline in multi-unit dwelling DAs in recent years.

Increasing housing supply in NSW requires new developments to progress efficiently through the planning, assessment, construction and completions process. The department has a set of programs to support councils and proponents navigate the assessment process – including through the Planning Delivery Unit (PDU), the Regional Housing Flying Squad and the Faster Local Assessment Grant Program. Guidance documents such as the Councils Development Assessment Guide, the Community Guide to Planning and the Guide to Complying Development are also available to improve the quality of applications and assessment in NSW.

As well as planning reforms already underway, Streamlined assessment pathways were announced in June for government, community and private-projects to deliver new social and affordable housing. The department is now considering new reform measures to improve assessment timeframes and, in turn, shorten the cost and timeframe of housing delivery.