THE HANDBRAKE on housing hasn't been released yet, as Lake Macquarie council put off a decision that could clear the way for infill developments across the city.
The proposal to change the council's planning controls to unlock development across 27 suburbs and provide better housing diversity won't come back to the chamber until March, after councillors voted to defer the decision until after they've held a workshop to discuss it.
Not everyone was in favour of the hold up, with Liberal Cr Jason Pauling criticising the council's indecisiveness and pointing out the proposal, which has been in the works for three years, was far from a "sledgehammer, try to fix the crisis, knee-jerk reaction".
"Let the park brake off and let's go forward, one of the traps in bureaucracy is you get trapped in red tape and go round, and round, and round and be indecisive," he said.
"I think the time for talking about this, dithering, workshopping away is long gone.
"No matter how you cut it up, this is a good product, it's time to take it forward and it's time to show everyone we are a decisive council and we have a clear vision for the city.
"We don't need to go behind closed doors and powwow in every single instance, for every matter."
The proposal would allow for smaller homes, which council staff say will offer more choice and improve affordability.
In medium density residential zones and some business zones close to CBDs, the current ten metre height limit would be raised to enable three-storey developments.
While in Charlestown, Windale and Toronto it could allow four to five-storey residential builds.
It first came to the council in 2021, where it received 304 public submissions, 241 of which opposed the proposal or elements of it.
The move to put off the vote came from Labor Cr Brian Adamthwaite, who said while he is an advocate for infill housing, he felt it was important to have the opportunity to discuss it further particularly in light of recent state government changes.
"This has been a decision that has been a long time in the baking, in fact, there are councillors sitting here tonight who have never discussed this in council before, because it came up three years ago before the last election, before this term of council," he said.
"I think if we want to make this the best it can be, we need to have a workshop, we need to have all councillors involved in a discussion, particularly councillors who have not seen this until this week.
"Getting it right I think is important, I don't feel in this case getting it fast is significant, given I can't recall any document that's been through council in my years on council that's had a three-year time lag."
Last year, the council got a letter from Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully urging it to look at its policy settings to see how it could grow the number of homes in the city.
CoreLogic data from September 2023 revealed the number of new builds have fallen, building costs have risen and vacancy rates sit at around one per cent across the city, all while rental and housing prices continue to climb.
The proposal before councillors would permit dual occupancies in some areas and make exceptions to minimum lot sizes for some developments to allow subdivision supported by 'sound design' below 200 square metres.
Boundaries of some medium density residential zones would be expanded to "better support town centres in a sensitive, practical way".
It would also allow for attached dwellings, multi-dwelling housing and flats in low density residential zones.
Liberal Cr Jack Antcliff hadn't come across the proposal previously in his term on council, but said the level of public consultation undertaken gave him a "great level of comfort".
"While it has taken as long as it has to get to us, as far as I'm concerned, I don't see the benefit of extending the timeline in that process," he said.
A decision on the proposal was deferred until after a council workshop, and is expected to return to the chamber in March.