As it seeks to beef up building activity and address a crippling housing shortage, the Western Australian government has introduced and proposed wide ranging changes designed to wind back compliance requirements relating to obtaining building permits and planning approvals for new construction.

Under changes announced by Commerce Minister Michael Mischin, a new Instant Start initiative will enable registered builders to commence work on single detached houses immediately upon lodging a certified permit without having to wait for the application to be processed by a local government.

Meanwhile, in a separate move, Planning Minister John Day has unveiled a range of proposed changes to the state’s planning laws, which will remove requirements to obtain approval to build patios, carports, pools or granny flats on single storey houses provided these comply with the residential design codes (R-Codes); allow owners of small to medium sized businesses to change the type of business run from a property without seeking planning approval if the new use is still a permitted land use and see a singular planning process apply across all local governments.

Talking specifically about the Instant Start initiative, Mischin said the lack of certainty about the time taken to obtain an approval is a significant cause of cost and delay to the housing construction industry and its clients.

“Each week of delay can cost the owner hundreds of dollars in mortgage costs on land and in rental costs,” Mischin said in a statement, adding that these delays meant builders were saddled with uncertain start times which hampered their ability to schedule subcontractors in an efficient way.

“With Instant Start (immediate start upon lodgement of certified building permits), builders can be confident in starting work because both planning and building compliance have been verified by competent and independent experts.”

The changes form part of the second phase of government efforts to simplify planning and building approval arrangements which commenced back in 2009. The proposed amendments seek to build on previous efforts to overhaul R-Codes and establish a state and capital city planning framework by fast-tracking approvals for new houses and streamline processes by moving to an electronic planning system.

While greater levels of efficiency within the process is considered to be an end in itself, the government’s ultimate aim revolves around tackling a crippling housing shortage by stimulating new residential construction and boosting housing supply.

Already Australia’s fastest growing city, Perth’s population is expected to triple over the next 50 years, exacerbating what is already considered a significant housing shortage.

Indeed recent projections from the Housing Industry Association (HIA) indicate that the state may shave to lift building activity by as many as 13,800 homes each year in order to meet housing requirements up to 2050 even if median assumptions regarding population and income growth are adopted.

Master Builders Association of Western Australia director Michael McLean welcomed the reforms, but warned the industry struggle with local councils would continue.

“Although today’s announcement will overcome some of the housing industry’s frustrations, local Town Planning Schemes and policies will continue to impose additional layers onto the building and planning approvals process,” he said. “Local government planning departments are still requiring ridiculous add ons to new homes which is having an adverse effect on affordability and slowing down the whole approvals process.

“Regrettably, the goal posts keep changing so builders still don’t know what response they will get from some Councils when they submit their building applications.”