Office parks and industrial sites in line for housing

Swathes of commercial and industrial land could be opened up for housing in NSW following one Sydney rezoning plan as workers shun offices in the post-pandemic era.

A section of prime development land at Macquarie Park, in the city's northwest, will be used for housing instead of offices under plans flagged by the state government on Thursday.

At least 3000 extra homes would be delivered with the potential rezoning, replacing existing plans for commercial space for up to 23,000 workers.

Planning Minister Paul Scully said changes in the use of office space in "a post-COVID world" provided an opportunity to create a mixed-use zone where thousands of people could live.

"This is the way we should be looking at doing density into the future," he told reporters.

"Pieces of land aren't one use only ... we've got to make sure there's flexibility."

The proposal would also deliver eight hectares of public open space, a large, multi-purpose indoor recreation facility, and paths for walking and cycling, the government said.

The area is bounded by two metro stations, a university and a large shopping centre.

Paul Scully
NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully says parcels of land "aren't one use only".

Premier Chris Minns said up to 5000 build-to-rent apartments could be developed on the Sydney site, which had access to jobs, open space and new public transport infrastructure.

Mr Minns said the state had previously quarantined land for commercial and industrial development but future development plans should mix land uses.

He said more rezoning announcements were to come.

Tom Forrest, from developer lobby group Urban Taskforce, said the announcement sent a clear message to councils to "get out of the way".

"New housing supply by adjusting the planning rules with new-found flexibility in zoning is the way forward," he said.

Opposition housing spokesman Scott Farlow said the decision was a blow to the state's future economic prosperity.

"The Macquarie Park master plan was building a world-class innovation precinct with tens of thousands of new jobs, more than 7000 homes, schools and open space," he said.

"The government is ripping that up and turning their back on Sydney's Silicon Valley, which already supports more than 72,000 high-value jobs."

NSW needs to build 75,000 extra homes a year to meet its contribution to the target, but its current annual rate is about 48,000.

Government ministers have previously floated the idea of converting empty offices into social and other housing to increase stocks and improve affordability.

But experts have dismissed the approach as expensive and complicated as many office buildings are not easily reconfigured for residential use.

Public feedback on the proposal can be made until December 10 before a final plan is formed in the middle of next year.