THE RISE OF THE BOARD­ING HOUSE

Monthly Chronicle - - News - AN­THONY BREW­STER

In 2009, the NSW Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced new amend­ments to leg­is­la­tion around Af­ford­able Rental Hous­ing. Part of that State En­vi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning Pol­icy (SEPP) con­trol cov­ered the reg­u­la­tion and def­i­ni­tion of what is known as new gen­er­a­tion board­ing houses.

Since that time there has been sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion of these new types of board­ing houses across Syd­ney, espe­cially in the in­ner city and in­ner west. How­ever, that same de­vel­op­ment en­thu­si­asm has, un­til now, ex­cluded the outer sub­urbs.

Hornsby Coun­cil has, for the first time since the changes in 2009, three re­cent de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions be­fore it for board­ing houses. One for Cas­tle Hill Road, West Pen­nant Hills, an­other at Ray Road, Ep­ping and a third at North­cote Road, Hornsby.

He­len Yao is the prin­ci­pal be­hind WPH De­vel­op­ments, the com­pany re­spon­si­ble for the Cas­tle Hill Road ap­pli­ca­tion. She cites af­ford­able hous­ing as the rea­son why a board­ing house de­sign is her first choice.

“I am not for mak­ing money, this a dream. I am not a de­vel­oper. In China I was a de­signer, an ar­chi­tect. Some peo­ple can­not af­ford hous­ing or af­ford to go to a bank. Maybe this is a way we can help,” Yao said.

How­ever, WPH De­vel­op­ments did pre­vi­ously lodge an ap­pli­ca­tion for the same lot with only one board­ing house and two sep­a­rate houses. This was re­fused by coun­cil, ef­fec­tively due to the num­ber of ten­e­ments pro­posed. Her new ap­pli­ca­tion is de­signed to mimic the built form of two houses on a sub­di­vided block.

But the num­ber of houses is not equiv­a­lent to a tra­di­tional sub­di­vi­sion. The new ten­e­ments can­not be in­di­vid­u­ally sold and do not fall un­der a tra­di­tional Strata law as with apart­ments or units.

And, while the obli­ga­tions with things such as park­ing are more re­laxed, with board­ing houses there are con­di­tions such as on­site man­agers and reg­u­lar coun­cil in­spec­tions that limit de­vel­op­ers abil­ity to turn a profit.

Pro­fes­sor Hal Paw­son is a di­rec­tor for the Aus­tralian Hous­ing and Ur­ban Re­search In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of NSW. He be­lieves part of the prob­lem with the new laws is the ter­mi­nol­ogy used.

“I think the big prob­lem in this de­bate is the term board­ing house. It is de­scrib­ing a place that is a run-down place where the poor­est of the poor are liv­ing,” said Pro­fes­sor Paw­son.

“That is not what is be­ing built in these de­vel­op­ments. These are the so called ‘new gen­er­a­tion board­ing houses’. It would be more ac­cu­rate to de­scribe them as mi­cro apart­ment blocks.”

How­ever, a group of con­cerned res­i­dents has re­cently formed in protest to the Cas­tle Hill Road pro­posal. They have many con­cerns with this type of de­vel­op­ment in their neigh­bour­hood. Chief among them are den­sity, as the pro­posal for Cas­tle Hill Road will have ca­pac­ity for 55 res­i­dents.

“R2 Zon­ing [the ex­ist­ing zon­ing of the area] is in keep­ing with ‘low den­sity res­i­den­tial’. A ‘board­ing house’ would be con­sid­ered ‘high den­sity low cost hous­ing’ and NOT in line with the other prop­er­ties in this area,” a res­i­dent said in a let­ter of op­po­si­tion to the pro­posal to Hornsby Coun­cil.

While Pro­fes­sor Paw­son, and other ex­perts in the field, be­lieve the new gen­er­a­tion board­ing houses are gen­er­ally a good thing for society and will have a pos­i­tive im­pact on hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity, he does note the is­sue of den­sity is a dif­fer­ent de­bate.

“In the in­ner city sub­urbs these types of de­vel­op­ments are go­ing up in highly de­sir­able ar­eas with ex­ist­ing high den­sity liv­ing. Whether the de­vel­op­ment is be­ing de­signed around an area that would be out of char­ac­ter, that is a sep­a­rate topic and you can def­i­nitely have a de­bate about that,” he said.

He­len Yao in front of her prop­erty on Cas­tle Hill Road West Pen­nant Hills Photo: An­thony Brew­ster

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