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Green plans for housing affordability

By 16 August 2010 25

In the grim silence of Canberra’s moribund democracy the Greens’ Lin Hatfield Dodds has been alone in giving any sign of bothering with the campaign at all.

Today she’s talking about a Green policy she hopes will help with Canberra’s staggeringly unaffordable housing market:

“The Convert to Rent initiative provides financial assistance to property owners to convert vacant or unused space into rental units for low income households.

“The scheme is based on the successful model in the City of London in Canada, and can be adopted in a number of Australian cities, including Canberra.

Convert to Rent will:

– Encourage landlords to provide dwellings to people on low-moderate incomes, and set appropriate levels of rent
– Provide incentives to property owners to convert their unused buildings/empty spaces above shops etc to affordable rental properties ($21,000 per dwelling maximum loan)
– Provide additional funding of $5000 for buildings and spaces to be modified for people with a disability
– Cost: $115 million would fund 5000 conversions including a minimum 15% funding to be available for modifications suitable for people with a disability.

(We’re also still waiting for any of the majors to bother answering your questions)

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25 Responses to Green plans for housing affordability
#1
Thumper2:48 pm, 16 Aug 10

This makes perfect sense but you’d have to come up with some pretty big incentives to get people to opt in.

#2
LSD3:05 pm, 16 Aug 10

with the huges swathes of unused commercial space we currently have, if it was set up with support from the ACT Government, we could make some significant positive changes in housing round these parts. Alas.

#3
watto233:28 pm, 16 Aug 10

I know some people are against the idea, but when i travel overseas i use backpacker hostels. Surely the cheap alternative for people is something similar, maybe 1 bedroom apartments and such with shared kitchens etc. I know there can be hassles and all, but given what people were living in in those slums that were shut down recently, surely a hostel type of accomodation would come in handy. I know if i was out of work a bed and some place to cook food and have a shower, would be appreciated. Even for the long term, living in a small room with shared facilities may not be great, but it would be better than paying hundred more elsewhere or having no where to live.

#4
Bosworth3:29 pm, 16 Aug 10

This sounds like a really good idea.

#5
troll-sniffer5:00 pm, 16 Aug 10

It’s a good idea when you have a flat property market or lots of unused commercial buildings etc but it wouldn’t really be suitable for the current Canberra situation, as we don’t have many buildings sitting idle.

#6
Outta Control5:11 pm, 16 Aug 10

It’s great to promise the world when you’ll never be in a position to implement anything. Perhaps she should talk to her buddies in the Legislative Assembly about this policy because they’re the ones with all the power at the moment. Plus the fact that housing and rent is a state/local government responsibility.

#7
GardeningGirl5:16 pm, 16 Aug 10

watto23 said :

I know some people are against the idea, but when i travel overseas i use backpacker hostels. Surely the cheap alternative for people is something similar, maybe 1 bedroom apartments and such with shared kitchens etc. I know there can be hassles and all, but given what people were living in in those slums that were shut down recently, surely a hostel type of accomodation would come in handy. I know if i was out of work a bed and some place to cook food and have a shower, would be appreciated. Even for the long term, living in a small room with shared facilities may not be great, but it would be better than paying hundred more elsewhere or having no where to live.

The previous generations of my family lived in hostels when they first moved to Canberra, as many people did then because of the shortage of housing. Later my husband also spent time in one of the remaining hostels while looking for a place to rent when he first moved here. Surely hostels can be part of the answer. Why is it so difficult to provide more basic affordable housing? Interesting idea too to convert vacant commercial space.

#8
arescarti428:30 pm, 16 Aug 10

Interesting idea. I would have thought that the tight rental market and relatively high rents would have served as a pretty good incentive for people to convert unused space.

Also perplexing is that in 2006 the ABS reported that more than 1 in 20 (6.4%) dwellings in Canberra were unoccupied, up from 5.7% in the 2001 census.

I’m not quite sure what to make of that. Assuming a population in Canberra of 345,000, and about 120000 dwellings (at 2.7 people per dwelling), that would suggest there were roughly 8000 empty homes in Canberra in 2006.

#9
sepi8:58 pm, 16 Aug 10

anzac park west?

#10
sepi8:59 pm, 16 Aug 10

A lot of houses up for sale are empty temporarily.
5-6% does seem a lot though.

#11
sexynotsmart9:35 pm, 16 Aug 10

Spooky! Saturday night we were discussing a similar initiative over a beer or six.

To summarise: We all spent a few years living out of dongers or canvas. Mostly military, but a couple of mining and one “Medicins sans Frontieres”. That “Grand Designs” bloke recently featured a block of flats made out of shipping containers. Basically each cell was a self-contained studio apartment. (For those playing at home, you should be up to 3 beers by now).

The undeniably genius of our proposal is – planned mobility. Every evening the containers are unpacked at shopping centre carparks. And every morning they’re stacked to the side of the road to prevent blinding sun on dangerous corners. We solve homelessness and reduce the road toll with one play!

(If that last step made no sense, you haven’t drunk enough beer.)

#12
bd849:49 pm, 16 Aug 10

“Encourage landlords to provide dwellings to people on low-moderate incomes, and set appropriate levels of rent”

GREAT! another policy that means absolutely nothing. Will this be like “I’ll give you a gold star if you are really nice to low income earners and don’t want your property to make any money”?

“Provide incentives to property owners to convert their unused buildings/empty spaces above shops etc to affordable rental properties ($21,000 per dwelling maximum loan)”

Are we still living in the 70s in a city like Melbourne or Sydney or did I miss the strip malls with flats above the houses that have suddenly been build in Canberra? The basis of the idea to convert buildings into apartment accommodation is somewhat sound, but would $21,000 convince any building owner to do that to their multi-million dollar office building? Any building owner would laugh at that offer.

“Provide additional funding of $5000 for buildings and spaces to be modified for people with a disability”

It may be a good idea for people with a disability, but what does it have to do with housing affordability? The majority of people in the market are not disabled and housing with these modifications are not generally attractive to the general buyer or renter, which means that the changes will eventually be removed.

Another cobbled together load of rubbish policy from the Greens to try and score some cheap votes. You’re wasting your vote if you believe their crap.

#13
caf10:31 pm, 16 Aug 10

If they want to make this a goer, they’d need buy-in from the ACT Government to change the way that Land Tax is calculated. At the moment, it seems that if you rent out 20% of a property, you’re liable for Land Tax on 100% of it (the same as if you rented the whole thing out).

#14
Woody Mann-Caruso10:46 pm, 16 Aug 10

“I know! Let’s f*ck around with complex market forces we can’t predict! We can create perverse incentives we can’t even begin to imagine by ham-fistedly throwing tax dollars at irrational economic actors! What’s the worst that could happen?”

#15
Grrrr11:23 pm, 16 Aug 10

Am I the only one who sees it as supply and demand?

Unemployment is low and incomes are high in the ACT.

So demand is high, and supply is not keeping up with it. Perhaps increased incentives towards more building of high-density housing in inner-suburban areas is required, and greater amounts of land released for new housing elsewhere will provide the levels of supply required?

A great start might be the demolition of those bloody horrible govvie housing buildings on Northbourne Ave in Braddon and Turner, and the building of some decent and huge apartment blocks in their place. (With the usual purchase of 1/4 of them by the govt for public housing, of course….)

Of course, a slash and burn of the public service a-la Howard in 1996-97 would also see prices nosedive as they did back then.

#16
Ryoma7:56 am, 17 Aug 10

At least Lin Hatfield Dodds is thinking about how to fix the problem – unlike our two major parties who are unable to think beyond the 1970`s on virtually ANY issue. And for those who bag her, what`s your innovative solution?

Current residential vacancy rate in Canberra – less than 1%.
Current commercial/industrial vacancy rate – around 14%.

If the Stanhope Government or Seselja Opposition actually cared about this issue, they`d be re-zoning some of this land as quickly as they could.

In Sydney and Melbourne, ex-industrial areas with warehouse conventions are popular because they allow people to make the choice to invest in what were unfashionable areas in exchange for being able to utilize the space as they see fit. There are many empty places in Fyshwick I`ve driven past and thought about how I could convert.

And another thing – much of our housing is not fully utilised. Houses built in the 60`s and 70`s for 4 or 5 people are now often holding only 1 or 2. I`m not suggesting that everyone should live in a share house (although maybe that is one place the ACT and Federal Governments could offer financial supporton both sides), but this is part of the reason why developers are mostly building 1 and 2 -bedroom places. Why? Because this is what Canberra has a shortage of….

#17
Thumper9:32 am, 17 Aug 10

A great start might be the demolition of those bloody horrible govvie housing buildings on Northbourne Ave in Braddon and Turner, and the building of some decent and huge apartment blocks in their place

That goes without saying.

#18
georgesgenitals10:01 am, 17 Aug 10

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

“I know! Let’s f*ck around with complex market forces we can’t predict! We can create perverse incentives we can’t even begin to imagine by ham-fistedly throwing tax dollars at irrational economic actors! What’s the worst that could happen?”

To add to this, it’s worth remembering that property investors will be scrutinising any changes to the rules to figure out ways to make (more) money. And when some of the smarter ones figure out how to use such new rules to their advantage, it’s only a matter of time until these strategies are propagated to other property investors who will also charge in and do the same. We need to be very careful about making changes, and think about the effects of those changes.

#19
Me no fry10:20 am, 17 Aug 10

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

“I know! Let’s f*ck around with complex market forces we can’t predict! We can create perverse incentives we can’t even begin to imagine by ham-fistedly throwing tax dollars at irrational economic actors! What’s the worst that could happen?”

That’s a neat summary of every action (to “solve” housing affordability) ever undertaken by any political party anywhere in this country.

#20
JessP11:43 am, 17 Aug 10

Problem: Solve housing affordability.

Answer: Release more land for new housing developments.

Result: More houses available but all the newer legoland (and other) developments suddenly drop in value (market forces) and everyones home is worth less than what they paid for it.

End result everyone is really p*ssed off at the government.

And so it doesnt happen.

#21
Gungahlin Al12:37 pm, 17 Aug 10

sepi said :

anzac park west?

You mean East?

#22
Gungahlin Al12:42 pm, 17 Aug 10

troll-sniffer said :

It’s a good idea when you have a flat property market or lots of unused commercial buildings etc but it wouldn’t really be suitable for the current Canberra situation, as we don’t have many buildings sitting idle.

TS: it is well known that as numerous brand new 5/6 star “A grade” buildings are built for departments to move/consolidate into, the ones they vacate face lengthy vacancies and/or costly retrofits to lift their standard to a level making them attractive to Fed tenants.

Converting some to residential makes perfect sense.

#23
Thumper12:44 pm, 17 Aug 10

Two words…

East Timor.

Nothing more needs to be said.

#24
Ceboazouz3:43 pm, 28 Jan 11

Severely unaffordable markets in Canberra OECD Call to “Ease Supply Restraints:” stop the dribble and act Stanhope and Greens Coalition

#25
beejay764:11 pm, 28 Jan 11

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

“I know! Let’s f*ck around with complex market forces we can’t predict! We can create perverse incentives we can’t even begin to imagine by ham-fistedly throwing tax dollars at irrational economic actors! What’s the worst that could happen?”

+1

Also, to help those on low incomes let’s have a wee think about government/ community housing. ACT govt has good programs for people on moderate incomes to get into their own house, but this doesn’t help those at the bottom. Public housing + buying schemes = easing of rental market. Providing money to the richest people in the hope that they will provide for the poorest doesn’t sound like a winner to me.

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