Developing SEPP Seniors living for the Sydney downsizer market


If you’ve heard that SEPP Seniors is an attractive development opportunity, you are right. SEPP Seniors living isn’t anything new… it’s a tried and tested path for turning single residential lots into low scale development for the downsizer market.

At Playoust Churcher, we’ve been designing SEPP Seniors living for more than a decade. We know the guidelines inside and out… and most importantly, we know how to deliver you a return on your investment through smart planning and good design.

State Environmental Planning Policy

State Environmental Planning Policy (NSW)


In a standard residential zone – or R2 zone – you are restricted to placing single residential houses on each lot. If you would like to develop your land, there are essentially two options:

1. Going through the costly and difficult process of applying to rezone the land

2. Using the State Environmental Planning Policy (NSW) or SEPP to subdivide your lot into units, townhouses or villas for over 55s

The State Environmental Planning Policy (NSW) has specific provisions that allow for the development of housing for seniors under the policy. Playoust Churcher Director Luke Playoust explains:

“In most cases, if our clients want to place units or townhouses on their lot, the land needs to be zoned either R3 for townhouses or R4 for multi-storey units. The beauty of working with SEPP for seniors housing is that as long as the lot meets the criteria outlined in the SEPP, they can subdivide their land for low scale seniors housing.”

SEPP land requirements


While the SEPP does open up the option of development to residential lots, it doesn’t apply universally. There are key requirements that each lot must meet in order to develop the land under the SEPP.

SEPP land requirements

The core requirements are:

  • Your block size is at least 1000sqm with a minimum frontage width to the street of 20m
  • Your lot is within 400m of a bus stop, train station or ferry wharf that is compatible with disabled access
  • There is a path to public transport (alternatively, the developer can put a path in as part of the development)
Assessing the site

If you meet the criteria, then it is just a matter of assessing the site to determine if a seniors living development is feasible.

Luke explains:

“We look at the primary site guides and then we assess the steepness of the block to determine if it is buildable for this type of development.

The degree of slope is critical – if it’s a steep block it’s just not going to work in terms of disability access. We take into account the topography, surrounding neighbours, landscaping and streetscape to get a full picture of the feasibility.”

The other consideration to make is that even if your lot isn’t large enough to meet the SEPP requirements, you can join with a neighbour who has a common goal to combine your lots. 1000sqm is just the minimum requirement… you can work with blocks that are much larger.

SEPP Seniors living guidelines


In terms of the development itself, you also need to be mindful of the SEPP Seniors living guidelines that need to be incorporated within your design.

SEPP Seniors living guidelines
  • The building area/floor space ratio is 0.5
  • The building setback varies from council to council but generally follows the existing street alignment
  • 15% of the site is required to be deep soil planting biased towards the rear and sides
  • Buildings in the development are limited to two storeys with the rear 25% of the allotment only allowed to be single storey
  • The housing design needs to accommodate disability – the bedroom, kitchen, laundry, bathrooms, doorways and hallways all have different sizes and minimum requirements set out in the code
  • At least one inhabitant of the final dwelling is required to be aged over 55
Identify and design

In terms of design, the important thing to remember is the market you are selling for.

At Playoust Churcher we have a very specialised skill set in being able to identify and design for the downsizer market on the North Shore and Northern Beaches.

Luke explains:

“We know this space inside and out. We know how to design seniors living that the market will like. Most of the SEPP Seniors purchasers on the North Shore and Northern Beaches are already living in the area but want to downsize. They want to buy in the local area and so we need to match the SEPP Seniors living guidelines with good design that will resonate with what they are looking for.”

SEPP return on investment

SEPP return on investment


As with any development, the return on investment is a key driver in your decision making.

And the key with return on investment with SEPP is to understand the market that is buying these types of homes. Luke explains the formula we use at Playoust Churcher to determine ROI for seniors living developments:

Best use of the land

“As a rough guide and dependent on the location, if a downsizer is selling their home for $1.7m, in our experience they will be looking to pay between $1.4 and $1.5m for their seniors housing. They still want a beautiful home that suits their lifestyle, they just don’t want to do the gardening anymore or to worry about the maintenance on a large home.

When you factor in the prices that these types of units will sell for, you can do the calculations for your lot based on the number of units or townhouses you can build on the lot. That is also something we have quite a lot of specialist expertise in. I can look at a design or block of land and very quickly determine the best use of the land to maximise the end value.”

Draw on our expertise


With our years of experience as the Sydney SEPP Seniors living specialists, we can help you turn your block of land into a seniors housing development that will deliver you a solid return on investment.

Contact us to discuss your goals and vision for developing your block of land for the Sydney downsizer market.

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