1 July 2020

Audit shows government failure on affordable housing, say Libs

| Ian Bushnell
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The government’s targets for affordable housing were not met in 2017-18 and 2018-19, with only 16 out of 86 dwellings purchased. Photo: File.

The Canberra Liberals have seized on an audit report that found the ACT Government had failed to reach its affordable housing targets in its land release program because of a focus on one and two-bedroom units instead of family homes.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said that more Canberra families were being locked out of affordable housing because of the Barr Government’s land monopoly.

The audit report into residential land supply and release published by the ACT Auditor-General on Friday found targets for affordable housing were not met in 2017-18 and 2018-19, with only 16 out of 86 dwellings purchased.

It found that almost 70 per cent of potential purchasers for affordable housing preferred three-bedroom houses on compact blocks but most of the dwellings offered only had one or two bedrooms.

The report said there had been a mismatch between the preferences of potential purchasers and the dwellings supplied to the market.

Mr Coe said this was due to the rising cost of land outstripping the cost of construction.

He said the Labor Government agenda to maximise profits from land sales was locking stressed families out of the housing market.

“What Andrew Barr simply does not understand is that many families cannot fit in a one- and two-bedroom unit. They need affordable housing options,” he said.

“We need to do everything we can to make the ACT the best place to live, work and raise a family – no matter how big or small your family is.

“That’s why the Canberra Liberals have committed to release more land and freeze residential rates to help more Canberra families afford a home.”

Auditor-General Michael Harris has recommended that the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, Suburban Land Agency and City Renewal Authority review and amend the nature and type of affordable housing dwellings offered to the market through the Affordable Home Purchase Program in order to better meet market demand.

They should also review the effectiveness of the program.

At least 15 per cent of the Indicative Land Release Program is dedicated each year to affordable, community and public housing as part of the Government’s Housing Strategy.

Targets for community housing were substantially exceeded in 2018-19, but the target for public housing was not met in 2017-18, mainly due to key land releases in the program.

Overall, the audit found the amount of land released had exceeded anticipated demand.

In the three years between 2016-17 and 2018-19, the Suburban Land Agency (and its predecessor the Land Development Agency) released land for up to 12,420 dwellings but not all had sold.

As at May 2020, the Suburban Land Agency had land for 1,549 dwellings available for sale across a range of locations, and land for 886 dwellings from the former Northbourne Flats site in Braddon and Turner remained unsold after its release in June 2018.

The Suburban Land Agency has reported a $218 million shortfall in revenues from land sales – $483 million against a target of $701 million.

Expectations for land sales in 2019-20 are expected to remain subdued, and have been further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Harris said.

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I don’t care who wins the election, no one stands out as a good and effective leader for all of Canberra.

But, whoever does win needs to implement much better city planning and design than we’ve seen for the last decade.

No surprise that Land and Planning haven’t delivered on affordable housing when they don’t align property release with tenant needs and when Developers seem the number one priority for land release and zoning changes.

The ACT Government obviously don’t seem to use data effectively or use modern design tools to plan and visualise a future Canberra.

Who allows massive apartment development without adequate parking, safe road access, reasonable bus services, proper solar design and access to green space?

Who let’s developers buy thousands of inner city public housing dwellings, allow them to knock them down and then rebuild them without any options for the previous inhabitants.

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