Recent SAT decision opens the door to new multiple dwelling opportunities

When a 'Grouped Dwelling' is a Multiple Dwelling

A recent decision at the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) has provided greater clarity around the application of the definition of 'Multiple Dwelling' within the Residential Design Codes.   This decision effectively means in areas appropriately zoned and coded for 'Multiple Dwellings' there is the potential to design developments that incorporate terraced dwellings or villas within a 'Multiple Dwelling' development (where there is a market for this type of product) and achieve a greater yield than would otherwise be permitted in a 'Grouped Dwelling' development, provided these dwellings are appropriately designed and integrated with other multiple dwelling apartments on the site.

In summary, in December 2014, the SAT delivered a decision in the case of Ellis and City of Stirling [2014] WASAT 172 (Ellis Case), confirming the definition of 'Multiple Dwelling' does not require every dwelling within a development have a substantial part of its plot ratio area above another dwelling to be defined as a 'Multiple Dwelling' where all of the dwellings are part of a 'single group of dwellings'.

This case involved an 8 dwelling development on a lot of 752 m2, where all of the units except for one (unit 7) had plot ratio area that was substantially above or below another unit. Unit 7 had a plot ratio area of approximately 7m2 above another unit.  On that basis the City of Stirling argued for it to be classified as a 'Grouped Dwelling' rather than a 'Multiple Dwelling.

The Honourable Lisa Eddy found the definition of the term 'multiple dwelling' did not require that every dwelling must have a substantial part of its plot ratio area above another dwelling. The definition specifies that 'a dwelling' is a multiple dwelling when it is 'in a group of more than one dwelling on a lot where any part of the plot ratio area of a dwelling is vertically above any part of the plot ratio area of any other'.

The verdict further concluded that in order for the definition of 'Multiple Dwelling' to be reasonably applied to a dwelling/s that does not have substantial plot ratio area above or below another dwelling, it must form part of a 'single group of dwellings' that incorporate at least another 'Multiple Dwelling'.

In this case, the proposed development was deemed to be a 'single group of dwellings' on the basis that they were all similar in design, shared stairwell and lobby access areas, as well as driveway and parking facilities. Furthermore, unit 7 did not occupy 'a separate and distinct part of the site', but rather, is part of a group of dwellings that 'occupy the site communally'.

The verdict concluded with the statement that 'all of the units in the development proposal are part of a single group of dwellings, and within that group there are three dwellings that have a substantial part of their plot ratio area vertically above the plot ratio area of another dwelling. Therefore, all of the dwellings, including Unit 7, are 'multiple dwellings' within the meaning of the Codes.'

TPG is a leading consultancy providing planning, heritage and urban design advice to the property and development industry. Should you wish to explore design and feasibility possibilities for the development potential of your site, please contact, David Read, Director or Mike Davis, Senior Planner on 9289 8300.



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