Blue Mountains Council offered incentives to fast-track development applications, see 650 homes built

Freeing up housing supply: Previously empty land on Springwood Avenue in Springwood, now being developed for apartments.
Freeing up housing supply: Previously empty land on Springwood Avenue in Springwood, now being developed for apartments.

Blue Mountains City Council will be offered cash incentives to fast-track development applications, in a bid to see 650 homes built here in the next five years.

Blue Mountains is one of eight councils being targeted by the Turnbull government to fast-track homes in a bid to chip away at the growing housing crisis.

“There are tens of millions of dollars up for grab for western Sydney [and Blue Mountains] councils,” Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor told media at a press conference with Treasurer Scott Morrison last Wednesday.

“Housing affordability is a barbecue stopper across Australia right now. We know right at the heart of our problem with housing affordability is a lack of supply.

“It’s not a bribe. It’s a clear incentive … for rezoning and accelerated approvals of housing,” he said, adding that historically some of these councils had been slow to approve new developments.

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill defended council’s speed of clearing complying DA’s and said he wasn’t sure whether the announcement was a good idea or not for the area.

"I cannot say whether or not this is a good idea. We need further details. These we will seek.”

The mayor said he had “long held and expressed the view that growth in population here is problematic, given our topography and environment”.

"The bushfire proximity cannot be ignored either. Our LEP [Local Environment Plan] allows for medium density around some town centres. This would assist with housing concerns.

"However, a minority of available land has been taken up. This is due to market demand.”

Cr Greenhill added he “would not back any incentive that eroded our communities and environment. We need more detail as to what shape such incentives take”.

Other councils being targeted include Liverpool, Penrith, Camden, Wollondilly, Campbelltown and Fairfield as part of a big to see 185,000 homes in total built by 2037.

To access the cash, council will need to apply to the state and federal governments to reform planning laws to help free up housing supply. Details of the Western Sydney Housing Package will be announced when the Western Sydney City Deal is finalised towards the end of 2017.

The figure of 650 new homes for the Mountains is part of the Greater Sydney Commission’s Draft District Plan and Mr Taylor’s media spokeswoman said it illustrated “the supply challenge ahead; it is not a specific target and it is not in any way tied to funding from the federal government”.

“We want to deliver better housing outcomes for the Blue Mountains supported by better amenity, better jobs and better services,”  Mr Taylor added.

A Blue Mountains City Council spokeswoman said 650 new homes was a realistic target when compared with nearby areas – Penrith has a target of 6,600 and Hawkesbury has to provide 1,150 dwellings –and recognised the unique characteristics and development constraints within the Mountains. A report looking at the Local Housing Strategy –  taking into account seniors housing, secondary dwellings, as well as affordable housing – will be presented to council in the coming months.

The spokeswoman said they were still awaiting finer details about of the Western Sydney Housing Package including the incentive measures being proposed.