Disability Rules for Secondary Residences in Canberra ACT

Many people are interested in putting a secondary residence onto their property. Some people want a studio and others love the idea of having an extra 2 bedrooms in their backyard. Common reasons for a secondary residence are for investment, accommodation for grandparents and separation from growing children. Investors get a Pod to rent out and generate income, while families put a Pod on their block for family and visitors.

Getting a secondary residence in the backyard is not as simple as building another dwelling on a property, if in Canberra, it MUST comply with the ACT Disability Rules.

What is a secondary residence?

If you’re wondering what is classed as a secondary residence, feel free to read our learn page. In general it is a second home in the backyard of an existing residence that is connected to the main residences services. In ACT the largest Secondary residence is 90m2 and in NSW it is 60m2 or 30-33% of the main residence size (whichever is larger).

There are two ways to build a secondary residence:

1. It can be a standalone residence or

2. It can be connected to the existing residence.

It would depend on the best solution available on the site. If it must connect to the existing structure, it is required to have separate access to it.

The purpose of the Secondary Residence policy from ACTPLA is to include granny flats and to allow for ‘Aging in Place’ and therefore making sure that all applications can be converted to be fully disabled compliant.


Why does a Secondary Residence need to comply with the disability rules in ACT?

The planning policies for secondary residences in the ACT must comply with Australian Standard AS 4299-1995. Australian Standard AS 4299-1995 or Adaptable Housing Policy, is a regulation that serves as guidance in planning secondary houses to ensure that it accommodates changes of physical ability of the occupant over time. You can find the rules scattered throughout the ACT planning portal website but mainly here.

We believe the reason why the secondary residence code was put into place is to better suit the aging population. More people are not wanting to put family members in homes and more likely to look after them in their homes or in a flat residence out the back of their current home. The elderly are then able to stay in the area that they are most familiar with which is described by ACTPLA as the ageing in place policy.


So how can you make a Secondary Residence in Canberra comply with the rules?

Some rules are extremely strict and others are a suggestion, it’s important to know which ones are a must. In order to get a dwelling or granny flat classed as a secondary residence these are some of the most common MUST haves that the planning authority require in Canberra

  • A secondary residence must be designed with wider doors for wheelchair accessibility which is 920mm wide.
  • Main bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and corridors must have the circulation space for a wheelchair to do 360 spins.
  • The bathroom must be fitted out with bracing behind the walls incase it needs to be fitted with grab rails and accessible toilets and shower seat in the future.
  • The kitchen must be designed to have sit down food areas, be at certain heights for wheelchair access and have a separate area for washing hands that might be adaptable to drop to a lower point.
  • The plans must show that it can be adaptable for ramps/ elevators to access the letterbox at the front boundary from the secondary residence.
  • You need to have the space to provide a 3.8m wide car space in order to show there is a location for it. It also must be a location where a van can park and get a wheelchair off a roof. Therefore a carport won’t suffice.

All of these requirements and more, we at The Pod Canberra do, we complete checks on in each clients site. So if you’re unsure just let us know and we will check online and then come have a look at how we can make it work.

Just for general information the minimum size for secondary residence is 40 sqm and maximum of 90 sqm in Canberra. In NSW it can vary from council to council but we have found the most common restriction is 60m2 which would be the size of a one bedroom.


Are there any benefits to complying with all of these rules and regulations?

While there are a lot of benefits to having an adaptable friendly secondary residence.

  1. You can sleep peacefully knowing that you are doing the right thing and not worry about any of the legal matters in the future.
  2. The secondary residence is adaptable to life situation change due to illness, injury and age.
  3. It can be a better selling point to the current residence as it may add value to your property.

It takes a lot of time and effort to go through the entire process to get a secondary house planning approved. If you have any questions please contact us and we can certainly help as best we can, alternatively if you want a Pod in your backyard we can see if the disability rules comply with your block for free with our online site check enquiry. 


1300 The Pod (1300 843 763)

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