Property pain: Home dream could cost more, take longer

A change to planning laws has left architect Kathy Barnsley concerned that people who planned to build their homes in stages would be caught out.
A change to planning laws has left architect Kathy Barnsley concerned that people who planned to build their homes in stages would be caught out.

A change to planning laws could mean people building their homes will have to wait longer to move in and be up for more expenses.

Moss Vale architect Kathy Barnsley said a lot of people had to stage construction because building was expensive. However this will no longer be possible under an amended and reorganised version of the environmental planning and assessment act passed through NSW Parliament last year. The new rules came into effect on March 1, 2018 with a six-month grace period and the end of the interim occupation certificates from September 1, 2018.

An interim occupation certificate authorises a person to commence occupation or use of a partially completed building or to commence a new use of part of an existing building. 

The amended act applies to existing and future development consents, which means from September 1 developers can only obtain approval for occupation of a completed building. The amended act also refers to approval for applications for part of a building, however Mrs Barnsley said this was a grey area and up to the interpretation of the person issuing the certificate. “People who are either in the middle of planning a project or have something coming up... if they’re planning any kind of staged construction, it’s going to affect them,” she said. “My concern is people don’t know about it and it will affect many.”

My concern is people don’t know about it and it will affect many.

Kathy Barnsley

Mrs Barnsley said the changes to the planning law could mean people building their homes would have to pay more during the construction stage, including renting alternative accommodation in the interim.

“A lot of people have to stage construction because building is expensive,” she said. “It’s a common approach to be able to spread out the cost of construction. That’s no longer going to be possible.” Mrs Barnsley said the changes had posed difficulties for several of her clients. One client had submitted their development application in November 2017, when the legislation passed through state parliament. Their application was approved in April 2018, a month after the legislation became effective.

“Their project really straddled the whole process,” Mrs Barnsley said. Another client intends to build a dual occupancy, where they would build part of the building, move into it and build the rest over time. “That one probably won’t be able to be approved [for occupancy] in a staged manner by council because it’s one building project. It’s potentially going to be a big problem,” she said. Mrs Barnsley said the six-month grace period for interim certificates was not an option for everyone.

“Here we are in the middle of June, that means you have to actually complete the first part of your construction by September 1,” she said.

“Unless you’re already building, that grace period is not going to help you.”

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