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R-Zoning Codes for Western Australia – What Does it Mean?

Date: 27/10/2014

 Western AustraliaThe Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has projected that Australia’s population will soar over the next 60 years. Western Australia is expected to grow faster than any other state or territory in the country. The ABS has projected WA to nearly double in size by 2040, from 2.4 million people to 4.7 million.

The Western Australia Planning Commission(WAPC) has a big job on their hands. Not only must they manage this massive expansion strategically, but they also must ensure that WA remains a desirable place to live.

What Are The R-Codes?

What Are The R-Codes?In an effort to manage such a rapid growth, the WAPC has created the Residential Design Codes of Western Australia, or the R-Codes, to provide a standard for the control of residential development throughout the state. Next, it goes into the hands of each local government, so they can prepare and amend their own planning schemes to implement the codes.

In simple terms, the R-Codes tell you how many residences can go on a 1-hectare (10,000 square metre) parcel of land. Each R-Code also stipulates the average and minimum size of a residential block within that coded 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 450m2 and a minimum site are of 350m2.

In reality, R-Codes are much more complex than just density and block size. Other factors that impact the highest and best use of a potential development include:

  • Type of dwelling
  • Maximum plot ratio, if building apartments
  • Minimum open space requirement
  • Maximum dwelling height allowed
  • Required boundary setbacks
  • Area streetscapes
  • Access and parking required on the site
  • The site works

In addition, there are many other finer points, so you will probably need to hire a consultant to help you sort them out.

What Type of Dwellings Will You Build?

The most basic question for any developer is, “What do I want to build here?” The general site requirements will differ based on the type of dwelling you plan to build on the land. The R-Codes recognize the following three dwelling classifications:

  1. Type of Dwellings Single: A dwelling standing wholly on its own title or strata lot. This excludes dwellings where areas are held in common.
  1. Grouped: A dwelling that is one part of a group of two or more dwellings on the same lot. In addition, no dwelling can go vertically on top of another, except in conditions where the landscape or topography dictates otherwise. This includes a strata-titled dwelling with common property.
  1. Multiple: A dwelling that is one part of a group of two or more dwellings where any part of a dwelling is vertically above a part of another. In addition, this excludes those already classified as grouped dwellings. It also includes any dwellings above the ground floor in a mixed use development.

In areas coded less than R30, the minimum site area requirements per dwelling differ for multiple dwelling developments than for single and grouped dwellings. For multiple dwellings in areas coded R30 or greater, the R-Codes do not have minimum site areas, but rather maximum plot ratios.

R-Zoning Code Snapshot

multiple dwelling developmentThe following is a snapshot of what the primary R-Codes allow based on a hypothetical development scenario for single or grouped dwellings.

If you’re planning a multiple dwelling development, you’ll need to dig a little deeper and do your own research. Don’t worry; I’ve given you a handy link below.

As mentioned, keep in mind that many other factors will impact your final development yield. They also relate to the existing configuration, development and frontage of the lot.

  • R10: average site area of 1000m2 per dwelling and minimum of 875m2
  • R12.5: average site area of 800m2 per dwelling and minimum of 700m2
  • R15: average site area of 666m2 per dwelling and minimum of 580m2
  • R17.5: average site area of 571m2 per dwelling and minimum of 500m2
  • R20: average site area of 450m2 per dwelling and minimum of 350m2
  • R25: average site area of 350m2 per dwelling and minimum of 300m2
  • R30: average site area of 300m2 per dwelling and minimum of 260m2
  • R40: average site area of 220m2 per dwelling and minimum of 180m2
  • R50: average site area of 180m2 per dwelling and minimum of 160m2
  • R60: average site area of 150m2 per dwelling and minimum of 120m2
  • R80: average site area of 120m2 per dwelling and minimum of 100m2

For a more detailed overview of the R-Code site requirements, and for the minimum site area or maximum plot ratio requirements for multiple dwellings, see pages 58 to 61, of the State Planning Policy.

Are These Zoning Codes Written In Stone?

accommodation for aged or dependent persons

Like any good developer, you’re probably wondering, “How flexible are these minimum land requirements?” You’ll be pleased to know that within the R-Codes are some provisions to vary the above requirements under certain circumstances.

If you plan to build accommodation for aged or dependent persons, or single bedroom dwellings, then you’ll find a generous provision in the codes for a density bonus. This will reduce the minimum site area by up to a third – a massive 33 percent.

No matter what you’re planning to build, you’ll also find a clause in the R-Codes that allows you to apply for approval to vary the minimum site area requirement by up to five percent. This is a handy provision if you have an oddly-shaped block, or if you found a deal that’s just short of reaching the minimum requirement.

For example, if you found an existing home on an 1150m2 block in an R30 area, with the minimum average lot size of 300m2, the R-Code requirement would limit you to subdividing and building two additional units. However, if you could gain approval for the five-percent variance, the average lot size requirement would drop to 285m2, which might allow you to squeeze a third new unit onto the property (285 x 4 = 1140).

Acquiring approval for this variance; however, is not exactly a simple process. These applications must be made directly with the WAPC at the state level. Your local council cannot approve a development application that proposes an undersized lot until the WAPC has issued their subdivision approval.

What Do The R-Codes Look Like in Your Suburb or Regional Area?

local government controlsYour local government controls which areas are zoned with each R-Code. The codes R25 and below are considered low-density, while the medium density codes are R30 through R60. The codes R80 and above are therefore high-density areas.

Most Perth suburbs and regional areas are zoned R20, but as you would expect, the suburbs closer to Perth CBD are R30 and R40.

Areas near shopping centres and public transport may sometimes be deemed as justifying higher ratings like R60. You would generally find R80 and above within the CBD.

Local governments will modify or change zoning from time to time, so it pays to keep informed of your council’s activities and plans. Many council town planners will allow you to schedule pre-lodgement meetings to discuss a proposed development before submitting your subdivision and development application. This offers a great opportunity for you to ask questions and build a win-win relationship.

Don’t be shy. Give your local council a call and see if you can tee up a meeting.

Profile photo of Jason Staggers

By Jason Staggers

Jason was a personal mentor working with Steve McKnight's Property Apprentices. He helped hundreds of investors apply Steve's teachings in the real world and achieve greater results on their journey to financial freedom. Jason now lives in Perth, WA where he leads Neuma Church.


    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      It’s a dual coded residential area.

      It means that it is primarily R15 but they may allow development up to and in accordance with R40 where it provides a benefit to the future residents and to the community as a whole. It’s not necessarily a right but a green light to pursue approval.

      R15: average site area of 666m2 per dwelling and minimum of 580m2
      R40: average site area of 220m2 per dwelling and minimum of 180m2

      An example would be a house on a 1000m2 block that could fit two new dwellings on the back if you could make the case of the benefit to council.

      Hope that helps.

    • Bethia

      Hey Jason,

      We’re looking at purchasing an old house on 1070m2 block zoned R60. We were dreaming of maybe building 6 or 7 houses on this land. Slowly over time. Does the R60 zoning mean that there are potentially 7 titles on this land? Or would each house be called a unit? With an R60 zoning, could we could sell portions of our block because each portion has its own title? Is that how it works?


    If an established block with a dwelling on it is reclassified today as R60 what does this entitle the owner to do and are there any maximum levels imposed upon an R60 limited to 4 stories high for example.

      • singh

        Hi Jason I’m looking to buy land r15/40 1130sm land .if I have front house 600sm is it possible to have another one or two units or house at the back of my house if I leave enough driveway on the side of my new house

  2. Omid

    Our family home is 701sq With 18m frontage it is zoned R20/30 i have measured the backyard and it is 300sq with 5 meter side access i thought if we can retain and build?

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      It’s up to council’s discretion whether they permit R30. You’ll need to make a case for the benefits of the development to the future residents and to the community as a whole.

      Be mindful that unless the land value is particularly high, it can be difficult to secure a significant profit when subdividing and building one unit. Even when keeping the existing dwelling, you may find that you would need a second new block to get the profit you’re hoping for. Make sure you thoroughly test all of your assumptions on subdivision costs and the end sales price of the new unit.

  3. Yazmin

    Im looking at a property 740m2 in historically low socioeconomic but supposedly ‘up and coming’outer perth region that is zoned R20/35. What does that potentially mean for subdivision since there is currently an old 3×1 on it. I was thinking temp. Granny flat for short term then eventually replace the house with 3 townhouses. Thanks

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      I’m not exactly sure what R35 permits, but I think it’s an average site area of 260m2 per dwelling and minimum of 235m2. Check with council what exactly R35 permits, but if I’m right, you’ll need a minimum of 780m2 to have a chance of getting a three lot subdivision approved. Still, there would be no guarantee. You’d have to make your case for why they should permit R35 rather than R20.

  4. Erin

    I’m looking at a property with R10 zoning, residential and stables. The block was initially 1000sqm but has been subdivided into 650 and 450. I’m wondering on either property if you wanted to either build or put a double storey on the existing house how difficult would this zoning make it to do it? Thanks

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      You’ll need to check with council directly to answer your question. I’m assuming if the block has already been subdivided, then they’ve approved the block for R20, but they may have unique requirements or restrictions for what you can / can not build.

  5. Scott

    Hi Jason

    My home in Heathridge has been re zoned to R20/40. It’s 730m2 I’m assuming this means average of 220m2 per block so essentially could do 3 dwellings obviously at councils discression?


  6. Saqib Sharif

    My 687 Sq.meters home is in Maddington in zone R17.5 (106 Carisbrooke St). My next door neighbor and most other houses in the street are R20/30 (my bad luck). Since I have a backyard available that measures around 255 sq meters, I am interested to build a new structure there. Please guide me what can I build? Granny flat or house?

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Unless there’s a provision for council to consider R25 or R30, which it sounds like you’re saying there is not, then you’ll be restricted to an average site area of 571m2 per dwelling and minimum of 500m2. That would mean your 687m2 block is too small to subdivide.

      The granny flat option is a possibility as WA councils generally don’t have occupancy restrictions for secondary dwellings. It would of course be on the same title as the other dwelling. You’ll need to contact Gosnells council to find out their planning regulations and approval process.

  7. Dave

    Hi Jason, My neighbour is selling a 814sqm block in an R20 zone. I want to buy his land and ‘give away’ about 40sqm of my current property, to get it within the 5% variance of 900sqm. (About 855sqm). Is the 5% variance at the councils discretion? Is there any reason they wouldn’t approve it? Is ther anything else I need to be aware of in giving away my land?

  8. Sasha

    Hello Jason,

    We live in Subiaco on 550m2 R20 we have an old home that has already been extended but want to take it out further on the side and build on top. We already have a mezzanine level and balcony upstairs on same side we want to extend. Any chance you can explain the set backs from side boundary?


  9. Zak

    Hi I’m thinking of buy a semi detached house on Beaufort street that is about 330sqm and has a zoning of R80. What does that mean? The other part is also of same size and zoning. So if I and my neighbour what to develop so total of 660sqm how many units/apartments can be built and what would be the maximum floor area required and number of levels allowed? Thanks

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      As I commented above, see pages 59-61 of the R-Codes State Planning Policy Doc.

      R80 means average site area of 120m2 per dwelling and minimum of 100m2, plus there are minimum open space and setback requirements you’ll find in the document.

      Together with your neighbour, it looks like 5 units, or maybe 6 if you can stretch it. Max plot ratio and height can be found on page 61 of the above document.

  10. NG

    Hi Jason
    I am looking to buy a property in Kallaroo which is 695m2, with an established home in a cul-de-sec. slightly odd shaped block but it has been rezoned to R20/R40.
    So does that mean in future I can knock off the place and built 2 dwellings on it? Appreciate your advise.

  11. antony frew

    I have a 898m2 block zoned r25 with 4 x 1 house , ( needs $100000 reno ) , just how much does it cost to subdivide a 898 m2 lot into two 449m2 blocks ? Surveyors , applications , services , fences , driveways etc
    cheers Tony

  12. Nav

    Hi Jason,

    I am going to build a house. My block is 13.5m x 30m. its in Wellard WA. My house garage covers more than 50% (7.5m roughly)of the total width of the lot (i.e 13.5m). is it necessary to move your master bedroom (at front) 1m ahead from the garage? Please advise. Thanks.

  13. Kim

    Hi Jason, I am looking to build 6 cabin style units to rent as short-term holiday accommodation in an area such as Mandurah, Busselton or Bridgetown and surrounding areas. Do you know what zoning I would need or what size land I would need to do so?

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      The size of land you would need depends on the zoning of the area. Referencing “R-Zoning Code Snapshot” in this article, you can see R30 allows for an average site area of 300m2 per dwelling (and minimum of 260m2).

      300m2 x 6 units = 1800m2

      R40 you could get away with 1320m2 but R25 would require at least 2100m2.

  14. Brian

    G’day Jason,
    My friends live on a rear subdivided block of 970m2, currently zoned R20. There is a rezoning proposal that may see the area rezoned to R30/40/60.
    As their house requires considerable renovation or even demolition, could they be in a position to demolish/clear their 970m2 & subdivide their portion of an already subdivided block & possibly rebuild on one of the new smaller lots?
    Many thanks in advance, cheers Brian

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi Brian.

      If currently zoned R20, they may be able to split their portion in half, but obviously the options increase if it’s rezoned. Being that it has already been subdivided and is at the back of the original block, there may be some access issues to work through if they want to subdivide it again.

      Also, being behind another house may limit what council will approve after rezoning, if their hoping to build up. The best thing to do is take a plan of subdivision into council and speak to one of the town planners about what the options might be and what to be mindful of based on the surrounding properties, both under R20 and higher density.

      Hope that helps.

  15. Ghaz Oubid

    Hi Jason
    In the above R Zones in your article.
    Where you have for example R20 average site area of 450m². Does this mean all the dwellings on a R20 development site must have an average of 450m² so some larger and some smaller dwellings having an average of 450m² or does this mean for every 450m²you can have one dwelling but no smaller than 350m².

  16. David Burger

    Hello Jason,
    Am looking at a vacant block zoned R40, and just doing some legwork before any dollars get involved. Reading between the lines it appears the maximum permissible height for any structure on an R40 property is just 9m. My proposal is a basic single level home, but with a (private) radio mast and antenna and small 1m (quiet) wind generator. My current design call for a height of 18m to get into clear air.

    The equivalent tower / antenna combo I have here in Sydney (same 9m limits), my town planner said it was not possible for the limit to be waivered usinga DA.

    Can you describe the WA position, given this is on Christmas Island.

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi David.

      That is an interesting question. The 9m rule is specifically the maximum height to the top of the roof, so I don’t think that’s the rule that you’re concerned with. As I understand it, you will need a building permit for a mast/antenna more than 2 metres above the point of attachment to the building.

      Because it’s Christmas Island, I’m assuming you would be dealing with The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to gain the permit since they oversee the government of the island, in accordance with WA laws.

      Hope that helps.


  17. Patrick

    Hi Jason,

    Firstly thanks in advance for any advice you could give me here,

    I have a 6,773 R10 Zoned vacant plot in York that I am contemplating on potentially building on. I understand that under the present density allowance there may be an opportunity to subdivide down to 800-1000sqm allotments?

    With regard to potential multiple dwellings i.e units, given there is access to all town services i.e sewerage, water etc is there an oppurtunity to undertake a development of that kind as well? My current thoughts are potentially 1 or 2 bedroom dwellings may fair well if its possible to undertake.

    Kind regards,


    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi Patrick.

      R10 refers to an average site area of 1000m2 per dwelling and minimum of 875m2, so I reckon you’d need to get council to approve R30 before a multi-unit development is possible. I’d suggest a pre-lodgement meeting with council to make your case for the need and discuss your options.

      All the best.


  18. Mike

    Hi Jason, you state “The codes R25 and below are considered low-density, while the medium density codes are R30 through R60.”, can you point me to the WAPC or similar authoritative document where this is specified?

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      No, but I’d say it’s self-evident by looking at the code descriptions. If you do some research you’ll find that some local council documents will refer to R25 to R60 as medium density. Other councils will call low density anything less than R30. In other words, sometimes R25 is considered medium density, sometimes low density. An average site area of 350m2 per dwelling and minimum of 300m2 (R25) is sort of on the line of whether or not you can do a multi-unit development. You’d need an 1100 or 1200m2 block to get a three lot yield in an R25 zone. That’s more realistic in a regional area. But almost anywhere, R20 is clearly low density and R30 is clearly medium density.

  19. Rashela

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for all this info. Was very useful.

    We have a lot in Scarborough, Perth. It’s 880sqm and it’s coded R30. It has a 20.12m frontage. There’s an exsiting house there which we would like to demolish.

    Since the frontage is 20.12m it seems like we will have a battleaxe lot, which needs to be at least 410sqm.

    Would it be possible to build a single house on the lot with direct access to the street and build a grouped dwelling composed of 2 units in the battleaxe lot?

    Subtracting the area of the road the first lot would be 300sqm and the battleaxe lot would be 419sqm.

    Or do you think we can subdivide the lot into 3 and build 3 single houses there?

    Thank you in advance!

  20. HI Jason, I have read WA planning residential design codes and my council City of Cockburn tells me I am zoned R25. Would you know how I could obtain a copy of code zoned R25 only. I have a overlooking issue with a large loss of privacy that does not agree with pages 58-64 of the design codes. With this clear evidence my council (city of Cockburn) then told me they have approved the overlooking issue under their zone R25 which has a different ruling to wa planning codes? and then pulled some coding rules Ive never seen or can find anywhere on internet? When I asked if zone R25 conflicts with state planning code, he said yes. I really need some advice here my inhabited living, bedrooms, alfresco and rear garden has NO privacy at all. I have a 2.8m long x 24m height clear glazed full viewing window overlooking the whole of my rear property. With no consult to us etc etc. Please do you know someone who could help me. This is a bad case of mistaken approval that probably would warrant legal action any help would be appreciated. regards Katrina

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi Katrina. The application of state design codes at the local level is a very subjective process. Take for instance the following quotes from the pages you referenced…

      “Privacy is a valid cause for concern and plays an important role in residential amenity. However, aside from cases of poor design, there is a large degree of subjectivity, often related to cultural perceptions and

      A sufficient level of privacy must be reached by good design to satisfy reasonable concerns. It is not the intent of the R-Codes to require 100per cent privacy at the expense of inconsistent building orientation, access to daylight, winter sun, ventilation, security or poor relationship to neighbours.”

      and also…

      “With reference to the application of the design principles the focus should be on what constitutes a reasonable level of privacy in the circumstances, and what is realistically achievable. This may vary depending on the circumstances, with generally higher levels of visual privacy achievable in low-density areas than is practical in higher-density areas. Differing community expectations in different situations should also be kept in mind.”

      In other words, the state gives the local council plenty of wriggle room and leaves the application of the privacy principle up to them.

      In Australia, we do have a common law right to privacy, but as you mentioned, it means legal action on your part to try to enforce it, likely at a significant cost to you. For this reason, we see people in a similar situation as you taking matters into their own hands:

      Sorry, I wish I could be of greater help. Your next step would be to contact a solicitor.

  21. Ian

    Hi Jason, how big does a residential block that has an exsisting house on it have to be to be able to add a Granny Flat on it and what are the requirements

  22. Albert

    Hi Jason,
    I’m deciding between 2 blocks in the same suburb in WA. Both are green title. One of them is R40 and the other is R20 getting conflicting information about what is the maximum buildable area for both percentage wise. E.g. if it was 500 metres squared would I only be able to build 250 metres squared maximum on the R20 block?


  23. Jeff

    Im looking at a lot with an R code R10 and a zone code R1, whats the difference? The council maps refer to it as urban – deferred, what does that mean?

  24. Trish

    Hi Jason
    Would you by any chance know where I can find out about residential rezoning in Perth metro and surrounding areas? I am looking to purchase an investment block of low density that I can sell or develop after it has been rezoned to a higher density.
    I hope you can help.
    Thank you

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi Trish. Perth just went through a rezoning about three and a half years ago, as you probably know. My advice would be to connect with your local council town planners and learn as much as you can about their vision for future development.

  25. Chris

    Hi Jason.
    Thanks for the handy info.
    A quick question, I have a 711m2 block in Belmont zoned r20/50/100.
    Does this open the opportunity for 3 or 4 townhouses?
    And would it be possible for 3 story or only 2.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi Chris. If council will assess the development application on site requirements for R50, then you may be able to get four units on the property, depending on the block configuration, setback requirements, etc. The height requirements for R50 are sufficient for a three-storey. Hope that helps.

  26. Les

    Hi Jason,
    we currently have a block 2500sqm that is zoned R20.How would we go about getting the zoning changed to allow more buildings.We have rung the local council and they have said there is no intention of them changing the zoning at this time.We are in Belmont council area.

  27. Tex

    Hi Jason,

    I’m enquiring to see the likelihood for approval for the green title narrow lot or battle axe subdivision of a 777m2 block of land (22m ftontage) that is zoned R20 in an established estate.

    A recent green field residential development was approved approximately 1km away in the Seabreeze Estate in Waikiki, with green title blocks that have been approved as R30 and R40.

    Could this recent estate development aid to assist any sub division application

    Thanks for your help.

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi Tex.

      If it’s zoned R20, then you’ll need a minimum of 900m2 to do the subdivision. The R30 zoning 1km away offers no objective help for your application unless the block in question is zoned R20/30, which means they would be open to considering R30 in some situations. It never hurts to pay the council town planners a visit and if nothing else, the higher density nearby gives you an excuse to try to make your case. I’d consider it a longshot though.

      All the best,

  28. grace

    Hi Jason,

    I’m considering to purchase a 700sqm block which has a R12.5 limitation on it. I am wondering if its possible to build a granny flat behind the house, or pull it down to build a duplex. Is duplex considered a single dwelling since it is really one house with two entrances.

    Thank you

    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers

      Hi Grace.

      A duplex is considered two dwellings, even when on one title, and since R12.5 only allows for one dwelling on 700m2, you’ll be limited in what you can do. You may be able to get planning approval for a duplex where one of the two dwellings is technically a granny flat, under 60m2. An example might be a three or four bedroom home with an attached one or two bedroom granny flat.

      That would be considerably more costly that building a granny flat behind the existing home. There is no minimum lot size for a granny flat in WA, but 700m2 should be fine, depending on the shape of the block. I’ve written more about granny flats here:

      Of course, the next step is to speak to a local council town planner. Call them up and see what they say.

      All the best,

  29. kelly

    HI, we ve just bought a corner block, – front and side access. 900 square meters. house is close to the front of the property with a large back yard. . Its only zoned R15 which from what I understand needs minimum 580 square meters per block. Do we have any other options? can you apply to be upgraded to R20… or do we just have to hope that might change in the future.? – is there any lenience that there’s already side access so you wouldn’t need a drive way through ?


    • Profile photo of Jason Staggers