I occasionally get asked whether it’s a good idea to build a studio or a granny flat. It depends a lot on your individual circumstances but in this article I give some info that may help with the decision-making process.
What are the options?
For a few years now, NSW state government have been promoting “in-fill” development. They do this as they can get more population into an area without providing any new infrastructure like roads or public transport. Modern planners prefer this to urban sprawl.
There are three main options:
You can build a granny flat, with council approval, up to 60 square metres in size of internal floor space. This is exclusive of decks and garages. You have to be aware of other considerations like further septic load if required and council contributions.
You can add extra bedrooms separate to your main house, as long as they are: no further than 20 metres away, have no kitchen, be connected to the main house, have no separate driveway, garage or carport.
Rural Dual Occupancy
If you have a rural acreage you can apply for a second house on the property. The second house must be no more than 100 metres away and use the same driveway. Again, a septic upgrade and council contributions may apply.
If you want to pursue one of these options I strongly suggest you first talk to a town planner. BPS works with a number of good planners and more info on who they are is posted at the end of this article.
Many readers will be shocked and appalled that people are renting illegal and unapproved structures in THIS VERY shire. Over the many years I have been cruising the back lanes of the Byron hinterland, I have seen all manner of unusual living quarters: converted dairy bales, farm sheds, caravans, shipping containers, tree houses, garages, teepees, train carriages, trucks and trailers, I have seen it all.
Professionally speaking you can go down this option but be aware of the down side. There are insurance issues. If you have a structure that burns down because of cooking your insurance may be be invalid. Speak to your accountant about receiving undeclared rental or getting payment in cash. Our good friends at the ATO are even pondering the idea that a rental income on a primary residence may affect Capital Gains Tax exemptions. Also, do not expect to have all of your build cost immediately show up in capital gain. If you spend $100K building a studio, don’t expect an immediate bump of $100K if you go to sell.
But the main downside operating an illegal rental is being at the mercy of a disgruntled ex-tenant. Byron Shire Council is aware that the shire is full of illegal rentals but prefer to turn a blind eye. If they are notified of an illegal dwelling, the compliance department are forced to investigate. You could be asked to demolish the structure, make it compliant or cease to have it used as a dwelling. BSC rightly have a concern that all dwellings are safe and sanitary.
I am all for people building extra dwellings. Being on the front lines of the real estate industry I see the problem many people have in trying to find somewhere to live. All three levels of government are hopeless and have dropped the ball rectifying this serious problem. I encourage all individuals with the means and capacity to build a secondary dwelling to do their bit to house someone. Especially owners who are prepared to discount from the market rate in order to subsidise a long-term resident who may be forced out of the area due to unaffordable rental. There is a trend towards this and all power to you.
In the grey area between approved secondary dwellings and illegal structures are temporary or portable homes. Planning and legal issues are too complex and variable to go into here. You have lots of scope if you have a mobile home and do not plumb into water or waste and can be powered by an extension cord. Byron hosts a number of rural properties running illegal permanent mobile home parks to varying success. I know the council has also looked at opening one to get illegal campers out of Byron. Unfortunately, most vanlifers and illegal campers are unruly, messy and do what they like. The bad apples have ruined it for the rest and it is good that council plays hardball with illegal campers.
For private landowners looking at putting up a temporary shelter that bypasses zoning and council DA, there are lots of options. It seems to be one of the most popular start-up cottage industries around. I am always seeing new people entering into the pre-fab cabin building business.
Somewhere to start. Here are a few studio or temporary dwelling providers that I believe may be worth talking to:
Micro Living Australia is a local company based in Tyagarah. They specialise in the design and manufacture of modern micro-homes that are location flexible and easy to install. (one of their designs is pictured above) Designed to be light and airy with glass doors and louvres, they have a unique expandable feature creating an open and comfortable living space. They can be fitted with off grid options for rural areas or for those wishing to live a more sustainable life. Microlivingaustralia.com.au
Humpy Co is in Bangalow and have riffed on the theme of the traditional Aussie humpy with a bit more design. They manufacture structures that are more permanent than a tent but more versatile than a caravan. Looks like a stylish shipping container. go to humpyco.com
Social Habitat is in Mullumbimby and a service provided by Malcolm Price, who has expertise in architecture, design and planning. If you need someone to assist in the process for design and processing a DA through council and not blow the budget, he may help. Malcolm Price 0410 623348 Socialhabitat.com.au
Planners I have known and loved:
Rob Doolan is the shire’s most experienced planner. He is a bit hard to get these days but has a younger cohort of associates who are well qualified and access the brains trust of the master.
Rob Doolan, 0408 688 752 email@example.com
Chris Pratt has lots of experience in Byron Bay but can work all over the shire. He’s quick in response and well versed in the details.
Chris Pratt 0437 859959 firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Walker is young and energetic with many years working inside Byron Shire Council. He has only recently branched out as an independent planner and his hourly rate has not yet gone stratospheric.
Matt Walker 0488 422 500 email@example.com
Mike Svikis is an excellent planner and comes highly recommended. He is currently consulting with Byron Council so has to excuse himself from any Byron DAs as a conflict of interest. For Tweed Shire, Ballina and Lismore councils, you will find he can help.
Mike Svikis 0447 805 871 firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with your studio and housing your granny. It can be fun and worthwhile. Happy to discuss if you want any more info.