Living closer together: Vibrant & sustainable suburbs

One of the keys to creating a sustainable and vibrant built environment is to live closer together – literally!

A simple way to achieve this is by placing two carefully considered and beautifully designed dwellings on a single block.

This information is for people in the ACT who own or are looking to own a residential block that currently has one or no residences on it. This is a general guide only; it is essential to seek professional advice on your particular block before making any big purchasing decisions.

Below are the potential options for denser living available to you. Use the following flowchart to determine which options apply to you:



Option 1: Share your house

On many residential blocks in Canberra, planning rules do not allow you to build two separate dwellings. However all is not lost; there is nothing to stop you from inviting extended family or some flatmates to come live with you.

They can even have their own separate kitchen, but it is important that you can access all parts of the house without going outdoors as this would constitute a separate dwelling.

One exception to this: you can always build a detached ‘studio’, but this cannot be a self-contained dwelling. If you build a detached structure containing a kitchen, bathroom and living room you can expect to run into trouble with the planning authorities!


Option 2: Build a secondary residence

Blocks over 500m² can have a secondary residence built on them.

There are specific rules around these residences; for example it must be between 40m² and 90m² and must comply with special requirements so that it can easily be adapted for mobility access in future.

A secondary residence can be attached or separate from the main house and can be rented out, but cannot have separate ownership.


Option 3: Dual occupancy – single title

A dual occupancy means building 2 separate dwellings on a block originally intended for a single dwelling.

There are fewer restrictions on a dual occupancy than a secondary residence. In many cases a dual occupancy can’t be subdivided or unit titled – refer to the flow chart above to determine what applies to your block.



Option 4: Dual occupancy - unit title

In some cases you can build a dual occupancy and then subdivide it into separate units

 Some parts of the site or building may be common areas handled by an ‘owner’s corporation’.

The units can be bought and sold separately.




Option 5: Subdivide into 2 single dwelling blocks

To subdivide your block into 2 totally separate blocks you must first build a dual occupancy and then apply to subdivide.

The resulting individual blocks will be treated as 2 totally separate sites with their own service connections and access, and can be bought or sold separately.