The Rules Behind R Codes

What are R Codes?

Wherever you live, whatever site you are planning to build on, subdivide or develop, you will be subject to a planning regulation called R Codes. The R stands for residential and refers to the Residential Design Codes.

“They’re basically designed to help suburbs, towns and cities in WA control their population growth in a structured and equitable way, and consider things like height, density, design, amenity and sustainability,” Stratawise Sales Manager Sue Marshall said. “All new developments – from a single residential house to an apartment complex – are assessed against the R Codes before they are approved.”

How do R Codes work?

Put simply, the R Code of an area stipulates how many residences can go on a one hectare (10,000sqm) parcel of land, and the minimum and average size of a residential block in that area. “For example, an R Code of R20 means you could have up to 20 dwellings per hectare of land, with each dwelling requiring an average site area of 450sqm and a minimum site area of 350sqm,“ Ms Marshall said. But R Codes are much more complex than just density and block size. To ensure the best outcome of a potential development, it will also be assessed by the R Codes over things like:

  • Type of dwelling
  • Type of title – strata vs green
  • Maximum site coverage
  • Minimum open space requirement
  • Maximum dwelling height allowed
  • Required boundary setbacks
  • Managing overlooking and privacy
  • Extent and number of boundary walls
  • Access to parking required on the site
  • Site works

What does this mean for you?

The R Codes will determine your site’s development potential. “The higher the number, the more dwellings can fit onto the site, so savvy investors will likely lean towards a home site with the most subdivisible potential, with an R Code that allows a greater number of dwellings to be built on it,” Ms Marshall said. “Your local council or shire will assess your development against the rules around setbacks, overlooking, height and open space – just to name a few.” Ms Marshall said zoning was constantly evolving, causing R Codes to change over time. “It’s important to check the code before you commit to a piece of land to ensure it can achieve what you are planning,” she said.

Who decides what the R Codes are?

The Western Australian Planning Commission designates the R Codes, but they are administered and applied by local government – your local council or shire.


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