news 17 November 2023

Unpacking SA's granny flat dilemma

Unpacking SA's granny flat dilemma

In a bid to alleviate the housing crisis, the South Australian government recently unveiled plans to increase the availability of "granny flats" for rent, coupled with relaxed development rules for backyard buildings.

While the intention behind these changes is noble, there are growing concerns within the Association of Building Consultants regarding the potential pitfalls associated with temporary residential structures.

The inherent challenge lies in the nature of these structures.

Despite initial intentions of being temporary accommodation options, many granny flats often end up becoming permanent fixtures, leading to long-term compliance issues. The proposed changes suggest a relaxation of criteria for backyard sites, allowing for "self-contained" granny flats. The emphasis is on protecting local character and heritage, especially in older inner-city suburbs. However, in reality the line between temporary and permanent structures is thin and the unintended consequences of these changes could be far-reaching.

A significant point of concern is the potential for these temporary residential structures to evolve into permanent dwellings, even with councils specifying maximum floor areas and bedroom counts. The statistics provided, indicating that 362 out of 470 "ancillary dwellings" applications were approved since planning rules changed in 2021, underscore the need for careful consideration of the long-term impact of these decisions.

The proposed rental reforms, which grant unrestricted access to secondary dwellings for non-family renters, raise questions about how these changes might affect neighborhoods and the overall housing landscape. While the government argues that such reforms will increase critical rental stocks, stabilise prices, and go towards addressing affordable housing shortages, it's crucial to balance these benefits with potential downsides.

Additionally, the proposed amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, allowing granny flats to be rented out to non-family members, require thorough examination. Housing insecurity is undoubtedly a concern, but there is a need to ensure that the potential benefits do not inadvertently lead to an increase in non-compliant, permanent structures.

The Association of Building Consultants recommends a comprehensive assessment of the proposed changes, considering the experiences of other states with similar laws. We urge the government to collaborate closely with planning bodies and industry experts to develop a framework that not only addresses the immediate housing crisis, but also safeguards the integrity of our communities in the long run.

It's imperative to strike the right balance between accessibility and compliance because decisions made today will shape the future of our neighbourhoods, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that these changes result in sustainable, well-planned communities.