17 August 2023

Canberra can set the standard for the nation's housing reboot

| Ian Bushnell
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Apartments and townhouses.

Greater density is coming, but how it is achieved is the question. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT should feel flattered.

Much of National Cabinet’s housing deal reflected what has already been legislated or will be legislated in the Territory, such as stronger tenants’ rights, rent rise limitations and the National Planning Reform Blueprint.

The push for more medium-density development in established suburbs along transport corridors and near business centres could easily have been scripted by Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

No wonder he said that the ACT was well placed to implement the measures.

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The Canberra Liberals should take note that the planning changes they oppose are now likely to be adopted nationwide as cities grapple with the need for new housing without further expensive and habitat-destroying sprawl.

But their concerns, which reflect those of many community groups, remain valid.

How the new planning system operates and development unfolds are key questions, but make no mistake it is coming.

Spacious Canberra is better placed than other capital cities to do it well but the government and the planning authority need to ensure that the urgency of delivering new housing does not lower the bar on building standards, amenity and green space.

Increasing supply – for buyers and renters – is now the name of the game and the revised national target of 1.2 million homes over five years from July next year, the $3 billion performance-based funding to the states and territories and $500 million for enabling works to help bring new housing online show governments are taking matters seriously.

The tenants’ rights deal also acknowledges that for many buying a home is no longer an option and that a growing part of the voting population will rent.

For the Greens, who are holding up Labor’s Housing Future Fund in the Senate, these measures don’t go far enough and limiting a rent rise to once a year will still mean renters will still be squeezed, and for some pushed into homelessness.

Mr Barr and Prime Minister Albanese won’t countenance rent freezes but argue more rental properties will bring down rents.

The Greens’ brinkmanship has raised awareness of the housing crisis and won significant concessions. It is time for them to take the win, even if it seems like giving in, and get out of the way of what new housing will flow for social, public and private housing under the Federal Government’s programs and its $10 billion investment fund.

It may not solve the problem but it is a start and offers some hope to those wondering how they or their children will keep a roof over their heads.

How Australia came to this has been a policy and planning failure decades in the making.

There remains unfinished business if any of these supply-side remedies are going to work.

But will Labor have the appetite for refreshing its mothballed policies from 2019 and wind back the overgenerous tax treatment of property that has fed prices and contributed to the crisis?

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And will it be able to better coordinate Australia’s migration program to accommodate the thousands of new arrivals that will continue to put pressure on the housing market?

The Commonwealth acknowledged this issue with the agreement to develop a multi-year planning model for migration, to improve collaboration with states and territories on migration settings.

Governments will also have to find a way to encourage people into the regions to curtail the current trend toward megacities.

Perhaps Canberra can be a template for that too.

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Yes, with the numbers the government wants to bring in Australia must find another 8,000 beds per week. Where are they to be found?

I’m wondering what the states and territories are supposed to do with the $3B. That won’t turn out much in the way of infrastructure or serviced land. The acute shortage of trades and materials will adversely impact pie-in-the-sky dreams of solving the housing crisis.

But can it set the standard for the management of its social housing? Houses sitting empty – sometimes for years. Mishandling of tenants. Maintenance issues. Maximising value for money. There are questions.

HiddenDragon8:33 pm 18 Aug 23

“The ACT should feel flattered.”

– and the rest of Australia should be dismayed and/or afraid (depending on where and how they live and thus what Albo’s favelaisation plan will mean for them) if they look closely at what an over-priced dump their “Bush Capital” has been turned into by these supposedly flatter-worthy policies.

The quickest way to increase housing supply is to regulate overnight and short-term housing such as airbnb. There are many properties vacant except for a night or two a week. It is much easier for property owners in desirable areas to make more money on a few nights rental, than a longer term lease. Short-term tenants do not stay bring dogs and cats in to stay, put holes in walls to hang things or cause ongoing problems for neighbours and landlords by refusing to leave when their agreed lease term is over.

The government needs to encourage longer term leases and discourage short term ones to get more properties available for ongoing tenants.

Here we go again. Another Ian Bushnell lovefest over ACT Government ‘policy promises and aspirations’ without recognising the ability to successfully execute the policy or to deliver on the outcomes originally promised.

Here’s just a few examples of what we’re great sounding ACT Government initiatives that didn’t quite turn out as expected.
‘More buses, more often’.
‘An ACT Prison facility that will be the first human rights complaint jail, with low recidivism, etc, etc’
‘New Kambah and West Belconnen schools will lead education innovation and outcomes’
‘ACT Hospitals to deliver person-cantered exceptional health care’
‘$76 million dollar HR System that will improve HR metrics and performance’
I could go on…….

thoughtsonthesubject2:26 pm 18 Aug 23

I wonder whether the PM and his advisors have ever heard of the Urban Heat Island effect. According to the worlds’ scientists, this is the greatest threat to urban populations both with regard to health and financial cost. What is the use of high-rise and/or high-density when in 20 or 30 years’ time these areas have such high temperatures that nobody can live there?
Australia’s urbanization rate has reached a peak in 2021 with 86.36 per cent of the population living in cities. That is higher than comparable countries like Canada and the US. What we need is decentralization and not cramming more people into the already overcrowded space of cities.
As to Canberra, we are blessed with Walter Burley Griffin’s Garden City plan with green space mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect. Future generations will not look kindly on those that set out to destroy it.

GrumpyGrandpa1:00 pm 18 Aug 23

How does Mr Bushnell get to wrote blatantly one sided articles? This should be a marked as a sponsored ad.

Sure, extra supply is good, albeit that it’ll be more apartments to justify LR line. And I’m not sure the Canberra Libs should take note. What they are arguing for is choice; a backyard for the kids to run around in.

I’m not sure that this increase supply is going to make a significant difference, when the immigration numbers have been increased? The higher the level of immigration, the more demand on housing stocks.

As for ALP revisiting their abandoned taxation policy, well, they abandoned it for a reason; those policies cost them an lost election they should have easily won!

One thing I will agree on is that the Greens need to accept that a half-decent policy, is better than getting nothing done at all.

Stephen Saunders8:53 am 18 Aug 23

Has it ever occurred to Riotact to publish the other side of the argument? We’ve already got every media outlet in the country running the Albanese-Greens supply-side theatre. Even though it’s never worked before.

“And will it be able to better coordinate Australia’s migration program to accommodate the thousands of new arrivals that will continue to put pressure on the housing market?”

Coordinate? How about “reduce”?

In all these apparent attempts to fix the problem, how about the pull the one lever that’s easily controlled and stop throwing petrol on the fire?

The greens are a joke , fancy wanting rent freezes when all the costs that go with owning a house keep going up, so the landlords should wear that cost?? If the greens want to help everyone why can’t you stop shops , petrol station etc etc from increasing price rises also

The Greens slogan -“I wonder what the poor people are doing”

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