Granny Flats – The Times are A Changing – – – – -Again
It was only a few years back [ since 2013] when most of the Councils in South East Queensland [SEQ] started to reform many of the rules around what are popularly known as “Granny Flats,” now often referred to as “Dual Key” homes, secondary dwellings or auxiliary units. For the most part, prior to then, Granny Flats that were allowed, but were restricted in size and and usage and the manor in which they could be incorporated into the main home, often resulting in small pokey living quarters that no self respecting Granny would want to live in these days.
Granny flats were frequently restricted as to who could legally live there which was usually Granny [or Grand Dad] or, more recently, a blood relative of the occupant of the main dwelling. Renting out to unrelated third party tenants was not allowed. Whilst that latter condition changed for most of the Councils in SEQ, it did not in Brisbane City Council area. Granny Flats in Brisbane are still required to occupied by a blood relative of the occupant of the main dwelling.
The big changes that occurred related to the maximum size that could be built – mostly a substantial increase – and how it related to the main dwelling – could now be separate or attached – along with the ability the rent out to unrelated parties. These changes triggered an absolute boom in the construction of Dual Key homes in places like Logan, Ipswich and Moreton Bay suburbs as well as Toowoomba.
In March 2014 we published another article, which proved very popular, in which we compared the rules, Council by Council, for Granny Flat development in SEQ. Whilst this a good reference point and was updated with some of the changes brought in since publication, more recent changes may be missing so best to check in with us or the local Council if you are considering this type of project.
Why are the rules changing for Granny Flats?
It’s money – but not only yours
A big reason that the rules are changing for Granny Flats relates to money. Councils perceive that they are missing out big time on revenue. Along with the massive increase in Dual Key construction they saw a drop off in applications for Dual Occupancy / Duplex construction. [if you’re not sure of the difference go here]. Duplex and Dual Occupancy buildings are designed to be subdivided into 2 dwellings & when that happens Councils usually get to claim an external works infrastructure contribution, currently as much as a little over $28,300 depending on bedroom numbers and which Council. Dual Keys [Auxiliary units, Secondary units, (granny flats)]cannot be subdivided, hence Council miss out on that money. Some Councils have resorted to charging annual property rates similar or equal to Duplexes never the less.
Other reasons that changes are afoot relate to the size of the auxiliary units, how many people that they can physically accommodate, car parking, the sizes of lots that they can be built on and other issues that go to lifestyle and amenities in the areas where they are being built. Remember, in a lot of those areas lot sizes have come down a long way to what was being developed 20 – 40 years ago, streets are narrower so people are being increasingly required to live closer to each other. We are not aware of any specific social issues or studies but one can only wonder.
What Are The Changes?
Logan City Council:
Logan are making substantial changes relating to ‘Auxiliary Units’ that come in on July 1st, 2018, which, in a nutshell, are as follows:
- The introduction of a minimum lot size of 700 m2
- The requirement of the lot to have a minimum frontage of 18 metres
- The levying of infrastructure charges [ these change from one year to the next, usually increasing, and are not cheap!]
We suggest that these changes will be a game changer! Note number 3 for instance. In many circumstances the charge will apply to properties that already have a DA prior to July 1st, as the critical requirement is to have actually lodged your BA prior to that date. In our experience many people get a DA and then sit on them for some years before organising a building approval [BA]. Some people just get a DA with a plan to on sell at a profit. Either way, infrastructure charges are substantial and will either increase the cost of your project or devalue the vacant lot.
If you fall into this category we suggest that you contact us urgently to get things sorted out for you. Meanwhile a detailed Logan City Fact Sheet can be accessed here that broadly outlines the different types of Dwelling and the differences between each [i.e. Auxiliary Unit vs Secondary Dwelling vs Dual Occupancy] – correctly defining your project is key here. The actual Logan City fact sheet outlining the changes to ”Auxiliary Units”, which is the one most investors are after, that enable each part of the dwelling to be let to unrelated parties can be accessed here. If the links change again you can call them on 07/ 34125269 for the updated one. Note also that the changes to lot size and frontage will render many properties no longer capable of gaining approval for an ‘Auxiliary Unit’. Note that with the ‘secondary dwelling’ approval the whole property must be rented to ‘blood relatives’ which is an unworkable restriction for most investors.[footnote: We have had issues with Logan moving this information around on their website resulting in our links giving ‘page not found’ results, as well as some of their links within documents not working – i.e. being inactive. These changes are clearly a revenue raiser and with the trigger, to avoid being charged a contribution fee, being the necessity to get a BA rather than a DA it will catch many unaware
Toowoomba Regional Council:
Toowoomba is also introducing new rules that limit dual occupancy’s by way of a temporary local planning instrument, replacing the previous one. The effective date was December 4th, 2017.
The purpose is to “ensure that development which is a dual occupancy creates pleasant, safe and attractive living environments while facilitating a range of housing types that sensitively blend with existing streetscapes and neighbourhoods and facilitate increased population within proximity to major centres.”
As we do not do a lot of this type of development work in Toowoomba we do not have specific projects that are effected, but it occurs to us that the change allows a significant degree of subjectivity. More information can be found here
Ipswich City Council:
Ipswich use the term “auxiliary unit” [AU] and were early adopters of Granny Flat reform in 2013. Inside a year they cottoned on to what was happening and soon after changed the rules. They had previously allowed them to be 65 m2 of GFA, into which one could fit 2 bedrooms, even 2 bathrooms in some cases. They changed these down to a maximum of 1 bedroom and no more than 50 m2 of GFA. They further clarified their rules relating to “Dual Occ’s” & AU’s in October 2015 – a Fact sheet can be accessed here
We hear that they may already be rating AU’s similarly to Dual Occupancy’s as well. Don’t be too surprised if they also start looking for ways to levy infrastructure charges.
Moreton Bay Regional Council:
In Moreton Bay they use the same term as Brisbane City Council viz: “Secondary Dwelling” for Granny Flats. Their rules vary from one zone to another and a fact sheet detailing these can be accessed here
They also have a set of rules for Dual Occupancy’s which can be accessed here.
We are not aware of any specific changes be our advice is to be wary.
Where to from Here?
In our experience Council’s are always hungry for money and if they can see a way forward to charge more money for something, especially if other Councils are doing it and managing to get away without too much public outcry then they will follow suit. An example is the way that they charge higher rates on rental properties than owner occupied properties.
Our advice to you if you are considering this type of property development that you should move sooner rather than later – and be sure to double check your local council’s Granny Flat rules before you commit.