Tried and true plan to build homes cheaper and faster

Plans to build much-needed homes in the nation’s most expensive market will draw on an old idea to deliver houses cheaper and faster.

The NSW government is taking expressions of interest for a design competition to create pattern books that are hoped to accelerate housing construction by streamlining the planning process.

The pre-designed homes will be met with faster approvals, saving time and cost for developers.

The pattern-book competition opening on Tuesday will take submissions from registered architects and students until August 9.

Finalists will be shortlisted by state architect Abbie Galvin and a panel of judges before completed designs are initially built on five sites owned by government agencies Homes NSW, Landcom and the Sydney Olympic Park Authority.

Successful designs must be respectful to their neighbourhoods, built sustainably to reduce power bills, and feature functional planning, support diverse household types.

Importantly the designs must also remain modest, simple and affordable, Ms Galvin said.

Communities have been engaged to work out what people want in their homes, and what they are willing to trade off to be able to buy one.

“What that has shown us is how important it is for the pattern book to have flexibility built into it,” Ms Galvin said.

“I would hope that people don’t think simple, modest and affordable is something they have to accept because they have nothing else … it’s more about the opportunities that you have as your family is growing,” she said.

Pattern books are not new in NSW and are responsible for some of the state’s most loved housing stock, Planning Minister Paul Scully said.

“We’re picking up a good idea that’s been used time and time again in Sydney and in NSW and modernising it, making it work for a modern era,” he said.

“This is about the terraces, the semi-detached and the mid-rise apartment blocks which have not been part of Sydney’s housing for the last little while.

“We have less diverse housing now than what we had a century ago, and that means people are missing out.”

Older pattern books featured designs for timber and fibro homes, many featuring two bedrooms with the option to add a third.

Some of the state’s historical pattern books also spruiked asbestos materials, which were banned in Australia more than two decades ago.

Housing Now, an alliance of unions, businesses, churches and universities, previously pushed for a reintroduced pattern book to speed up building approvals, chair David Borger said.

“We fully support this initiative, providing it’s affordable … there’s no use having an award-winning design if people can’t afford to build it,” he said.

NSW has to build an average of about 75,000 extra homes each year over the next five years to reach its share of a nationally agreed target, but approvals and completions have consistently lagged that figure.


Jack Gramenz
(Australian Associated Press)


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