View of Perth skyline on a sunny day with the river and suburbs in the foreground

Diversity of housing development in Perth and a wider range of housing choices is much needed in Perth. Urban sprawl, suburbs designed for cars and cookie cutter houses that do not offer a diverse housing choice is not sustainable in the long term.

To address this, the State government has released the draft Medium Density Residential Housing Code (Draft Code) for public comment. The Draft Code forms a part of the State government’s planning law reforms to assist with economic recovery from COVID-19 and will provide development controls for single houses and grouped dwellings in areas coded R30 and above and multiple dwellings in areas coded R30 to R60. The intention of the Draft Code is to encourage good design and to provide an alternative to conventional infill housing developments.

Interaction with State Planning Policies

The Draft Code will not affect the applicability of the 10 design principles in the State Planning Policy 7.0 – Design of the Built Environment to medium density housing. The Draft Code will form part of the State Planning Policy 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 1 (R-Codes), supported by the Medium Density Explanatory Guidelines and the Medium Density Housing Diversity Guide.

Because the R-Codes is a State planning policy made under Part 3 of the Planning and Development Act 2005 (WA), decision makers must have due regard to the R-Codes. This means that if the Draft Code is adopted, developers proposing a development in an area coded R30 to R60, ought to take the requirements of the Draft Code into account when preparing and submitting development applications.

Overview of the Draft Medium Density Code

The most common form of infill medium density in Perth is detached villa style grouped dwellings. This has resulted in houses that have a limited outlook to garden areas, no opportunities for solar access, views to blank walls, lack of cross ventilation and no street interface, which isolates rather than connects people.

The Draft Code focusses on four elements to encourage good design: the Land, the Garden, the Building and Neighbourliness.

The Land

The Draft Code specifies minimum and average site area requirements and three new site categories. Lots that are created by subdivision or amalgamation must comply with the site area requirements.

The site area requirements in the Draft Code remain unchanged for single houses and grouped dwellings in R30 to R60 coded areas. There are additional site requirements for multiple dwellings, for which the average site area per dwelling must be 115m2 in R40, 100m2 in R50 and 85m2 in R60.

The site area requirements are intended to encourage a diversity of housing types and provide incentives for developments with street frontage and sites suited to medium density such as larger sites, corner lots or sites with laneway access.

The Garden

While the requirements of the current R-Codes include landscaping, outdoor living areas and communal open space, the Draft Code requires a primary garden area for single houses and grouped dwellings and a private open space (an outdoor space or a balcony area) for multiple dwellings. The design of these areas and spaces should allow for solar access and natural ventilation.

The design of multiple dwellings will also need to consider sufficient deep soil areas for trees, similar to that required under State Planning Policy 7.3 Residential Design Codes Volume 2 – Apartments (R-Codes Volume 2).

Grouped and multiple dwellings will also have a minimum communal open space requirement depending on the development size, in particular for developments with 11 to 50 dwellings (at least 6m2 per dwelling) and more than 50 dwellings (at least 300m2 in total).

While stormwater management principles have minimal changes, water sensitive urban design mechanisms are emphasised within the design principles, rather than only in the explanatory guidelines. The Draft Code also specifies a new design principle that flooding risk is to be reduced to limit the impact of major rainfall events, a change that recognises the risk of potential future climate change impacts in Perth.

The Building

The ‘primary living space’ is the main habitable room of the dwelling and the focus of indoor activity. The new design principle intends that each dwelling has one designated ‘primary living space’ with a minimum internal dimension of 4m.

Universal design principles for medium density apply only to grouped and multiple dwellings and are slightly different from requirements for apartments in the R-Codes Volume 2. In the Draft Code, housing can be designed with the option of universal design or adaptable housing (or a combination). While universal design incorporates design features for disabled people or those with limited mobility, adaptable housing is design that allows for the future adaptation of a dwelling to accommodate changing needs.

For medium density developments under nine dwellings, the universal design requirements are minimal to provide dwellings at either Silver, Gold or Platinum level as defined under the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. For medium density developments with 10 or more dwellings, the requirements are the same as the R-Codes Volume 2 for apartments (minimum 20% of all dwellings at Silver or Gold level or minimum 5% of dwellings at Platinum level).


While Neighbourliness is a new name, the proposed design principles within this element include existing principles related to the built form (e.g. building height, bulk, scale and setbacks), character (e.g. streetscape and street setbacks) and community (solar access for adjoining sites and visual privacy).

The Draft Code introduces design requirements for communal streets, i.e. common property or a private street that provides joint access to two or more dwellings in a residential development that may include vehicle and pedestrian access and landscaping. Communal streets must be designed as shared spaces for pedestrian, cyclist and vehicle users.


Consultation of the draft documents is open until 16 April 2021 and available on the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage website. If you require assistance with making a submission on the Draft Code, please contact us at (08) 6460 5179 or email us at