Alarm at low number of single houses being approved in the ACT

Ian Bushnell 7 March 2018 13

Land not for sale: Building your dream house in the ACT might be more difficult than you think.

The number of new dwelling approvals in Canberra ACT appears to have fallen in a hole, particularly for apartments, but according to Master Builders ACT, the real worry is the low number of single, detached houses being built.

According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the number of ACT dwellings approved slumped by 32.6 per cent in January as opposed to a 0.1 per cent rise nationally.

In January, 132 dwellings were approved, of which 55 were units, 48 houses and 29 semi-detached or townhouses. From October, only 67 apartments have been approved, coming off highs of 513 in August and 431 in September.

In the same period, 331 single detached houses have been approved with a high of 105 in October.

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said while the drop in apartments could be accounted for by a lag in development applications and approvals, the low number of house starts was a result of Government land release policies that ignored the demand in the market and drove buyers across the border.

He also accused the Government through the Suburban Land Authority (SLA) of profiteering when it came to land sales.

Mr Hopkins said he expected apartments’ approvals to pick up, especially with so many developments in the pipeline for the Northbourne Avenue light rail corridor.

He said January’s figure for single houses was the lowest in the past 12 months.

“This is a direct result of the Government’s land supply policies, where they are restricting houses despite there being a really strong demand from Canberra families for land to build a single house,” Mr Hopkins said.

Contributing to this was the Government’s 50-50 policy which targeted 50 per cent of new dwellings in greenfield areas and 50 per cent in infill, which only led to sharp rises in land prices and affordability issues.

“While we support the Government’s vision of a bigger Canberra focused on renewal around town centres and along transport corridors, at the end of the day, housing policy needs to be based on evidence and it needs to be based on the type of housing that Canberrans are needing to live in, and in a community which is still dominated by nuclear families, couples and couples having young families that drives the demand for single housing, I think it’s important that any housing targets the Government sets are based on that evidence and not just arbitrary 50-50 type policies,” Mr Hopkins said.

“Because there is really no point building thousands of apartments if Canberra’s demographic make-up has a skew towards families.”

Mr Hopkins said Canberra needed to be considered as a region, with people seeking single and affordable houses looking over the border to places such as Googong, where a lot of families were buying houses and a lot of Master Builders members building houses.

He described the SLA’s gross margins of between 40 and 70 per cent as super profits, well above industry expectation.

“That would mean that the Government has plenty of capacity to offer discounted land to groups like community housing providers, to offer affordable housing, and that would be a really valuable contribution the SLA could make to the community,” he said.”

“In Canberra, we have some good financially sustainable community housing providers but at the moment they are not getting any relief on land prices from the Government.”

Mr Hopkins said the recent Grattan Institute report on housing affordability confirmed the Master Builders view that releasing more land for housing would help resolve the issue.

He said the report found that if 50,000 more homes were built across Australia, that would have a direct impact on prices.

“A large part of our housing affordability problem is actually a land affordability problem. In the ACT the Government has a direct opportunity to influence that because they are the land owner and the developer,” he said.

Have you tried building a house in the ACT? What has your experience been like? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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13 Responses to Alarm at low number of single houses being approved in the ACT
wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 7:59 am 11 Mar 18

The biggest flaw with mass apartment blocks and townhouses is the lack of outdoor areas for children to play. You end up with a few hundred square metres for several hundred kids to congregate in. What happens then? Arguments over whose turn it is for one of the only two swings within walking distance. Without backyards where parents can feel their kids are safe, they will undoubtedly keep them indoors and the children miss out on exercise, sunshine and simply playing outside. Parks these days are nothing more than tan bark, a couple of play gyms and a bench. Kids get bored of that in minutes. Where are the open fields and tree filled gardens that I remember from my pre-teen years? Behind security fencing, to prevent vandalism. Go and look at suburbs like Molonglo, then tell me we don’t need single dwellings with backyard spaces. Canberra’s kids are growing up in the “Bush Capital” without even seeing the bush.

    bringontheevidence bringontheevidence 3:14 pm 12 Mar 18

    There are plenty of houses with big backyards in Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Weston that can be purchased for less than a townhouse in the Inner North or an apartment in Kingston. Its a lack of the second two options that’s driving the affordability problems in the city, not a lack of detached houses.

Wing Nut Wing Nut 1:38 pm 10 Mar 18

Put that down as another rip roaring failure by the Barr Government to manage affordable land releases.

Stan Vizovitis Stan Vizovitis 5:33 pm 08 Mar 18

Everything is cheaper over the border from rates.rego insurances. even the cost of doing business so why wouldn't you

Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 5:13 pm 08 Mar 18

too expensive.

Arjay Arjay 3:18 pm 08 Mar 18

And where exactly will we be building these thousands of new single houses? The Kowen Plateu? West Murrumbidgee? Majura? It’s all well and good for Mr Hopkins to call for more low-density development on the urban fringes, but let’s not forget that the ACT has a finite supply of developable land. Apart from the MBA, does anyone really want Canberra’s remaining bushland to be bulldozed and replaced by oceans of car-dependent McMansions?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:31 am 09 Mar 18

    It’s time to apply the much heralded cross border and regional MOUs.

    Take Bungendore for example where there a real houses and land at half the price of Canberra ones. It is connected to Kingston by rail and off the shelf self-powered commuter trains into Canberra could immediately take thousands of commuters off the road. The cost would be minimal in comparison to the trams and their infrastructure.

    bringontheevidence bringontheevidence 3:10 pm 12 Mar 18

    I’m not sure what town you are thinking of, but I’d love it if you could find a ‘real house and land’ in Bungendore for half the price of Canberra ones.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:25 am 08 Mar 18

“Because there is really no point building thousands of apartments if Canberra’s demographic make-up has a skew towards families.”

The Chief Minister, who is the prime mover of unitification of Canberra should read this.

    bringontheevidence bringontheevidence 12:01 am 09 Mar 18

    Survey results show that given a certain budget, only around 50 per cent of people want a detached house, the remainder would a townhouse or apartment that was better located (this study was quoted in the very same Grattan report the MBA mentioned).

    But, Canberra’s existing housing mix is still about 70-75 per cent detached houses! At the current ratio of apartments to houses, its still going to take another 15 years for the City’s dwelling stock to match what people want.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:11 am 09 Mar 18

    What survey? No one asked me.

    Maya123 Maya123 11:24 am 09 Mar 18

    I had a phone call survey once about this. I have nothing against apartments, but I did say I would prefer to stay in my house. But only because until all smoking is banned from apartments and their surrounds, and owner occupier only apartments are available I am not interested.

    Have energy efficient, only owner occupier apartments where smoking is banned, with plots for vegetables and fruit trees rather than the ‘sterile’ areas apartments now have, then one day I might be interested. I say one day (when I am older), because I have put too much effort into getting an energy efficient house and setting up food gardens. However, if I was staring out now, an apartment as I described would be VERY attractive. The community would be a bonus.

    bringontheevidence bringontheevidence 3:07 pm 12 Mar 18

    It’s called a representative sample….

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