25 October 2019

Coe vows to unlock more land for cheaper stand-alone housing in election pitch

| Ian Bushnell
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ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe

ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe: more land, lower rates and maybe light rail. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe has promised to boost the supply of residential land in the ACT to drive down prices and stop potential home buyers crossing the border in a quest for cheaper housing.

At a major speech to the National Press Club on Friday less than a year out from the ACT election, Mr Coe depicted a Government past its use-by date and out of touch, promised land for houses and rates relief, and gave a grudging nod to light rail.

In a clear pitch to voters who feel priced out of the stand-alone house market, Mr Coe told the National Press Club that despite what the Barr Government says there was more than enough land in the ACT, naming existing areas of Gungahlin, Kowen, areas to the west of Molonglo and Weston Creek and across the Murrumbidgee in Tuggeranong as potential greenfield areas.

Mr Coe said this could be done through the Suburban Land Agency or private developers, and suggested that there should be a target range for land price increases of 2 to 5 per cent.

“This would be much fairer than a compounding 10 or 15 per cent increase that we’ve seen in recent years,” he said.

“If you have that target range you can increase and decrease supply to ensure that we’re maintaining the values of people who have invested but that you’re bringing new land into the market.”

Mr Coe said people aged 24 to 49 are voting with feet their and crossing the border with their children to buy houses in areas such as Googong.

He quipped that Chief Minister Andrew Barr may as well be mayor of Queanbeyan for all the economic stimulus his tax and land policies were bringing to the border areas.

“The rapidly growing town of Googong has similar-sized detached housing blocks to those on offer in Canberra, but at much lower prices,” he said.

“On availability, Bungendore (and Murrumbateman in Yass Region) offer larger blocks which are simply unavailable in Canberra. At the heart of this is the ACT Government policy of strangling the supply of land for standalone dwellings even though nine in ten people in Canberra aspire to live in a house and not an apartment.”

The Commonwealth Park station in plans for light rail Stage 2A.

The Commonwealth Park station in plans for light rail Stage 2A. “You’ve got to do it at the right time, right cost, with the right technology,” Mr Coe says.

He accused the Government of profiteering, saying that if it is going to continue to be a land developer, its mandate should be to deliver affordable homes, and not deliberately price Canberrans out of the market.

“I want every single Canberran to have a path to homeownership,” he said. “We should be leading the nation when it comes to housing affordability. We have the land, we have the planning capability, we have the expertise.”

Mr Coe said the Government seemed to only care about those who could afford $1000 a square metre or needed public housing, and has forgotten those in the middle who have to rent privately.

“The best thing you can do to bring down the cost of rents, which are the highest in the country for a free-standing home at $570 a week, is to increase land supply and put a cap on rates,” he said.

Mr Coe also implied he would tear up the “ridiculous” Territory Plan and move to speed up the processing of development applications.

“The vast majority of issues in planning can be dealt with through a building envelope, permitted uses and the national building code,” he said.

While saying he would cap rates and overhaul commercial rates for business, Mr Coe was less clear about how the Liberals would pay for services with less revenue, apart from relying on growth from land sales.

“We should be broadening the tax base by having more people living in the ACT rather than just over the border and that starts with a steady and consistent land supply program so people can afford to build a house in the ACT,” he said.

On light rail, Mr Coe said the Liberals remained open to light rail, and Stage 2 in particular, but it had to stack up.

”You can’t go into Stage 2, or 3, 4 lightly. You’ve got to do it at the right time, right cost, with the right technology,” he said.

Mr Coe said a Liberal Government would not tear up any contracts that the Barr Government may sign “but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before Stage 2 contracts are signed”.

Mr Barr said Mr Coe’s ‘manifesto’ outlined a typically conservative approach from the Canberra Liberals.

“Cutting revenue and public investment is not the way to strengthen our community or grow our economy,” he said.

“Canberrans want a Government that will guarantee more services as our city grows by hiring more nurses, more teachers, more police officers, more firefighters, and more city rangers. Only Labor will make this guarantee and only Labor can deliver.”

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Capital Retro8:34 am 27 Oct 19

“So what’s Denman prospect and ginninderry then?”

Canberra’s next slum.

Capital Retro8:33 am 27 Oct 19

“The best chance the ACT Liberals have is to dump Coe now and field a better alternative while there’s time.”

Andrew Wall is the man.

michael quirk10:07 pm 26 Oct 19

Kim2614, No I am someone who is interested in good governance and social justice. The Barr government is failing to address the housing and health needs of the community and is continuing to waste money on the non urgent and discretionary light rail. It needs 4 years in opposition to refocus and become a true labor government taking decisions based on evidence and that maximise the welfare of the community

Light rail – less than 1% of the ACT Budget. Excellent value for an adequate public transport system for Canberra’s system into the future. Buses alone just won’t cut it, (nor do they cut it in most other Australian cities. This argument is becoming a little tiresome with a dwindling band of Can the Trammers starting to sound like a scratched (78RPM) record.

Mike Quirk, spoken like a true conservative.

michael quirk9:18 am 26 Oct 19

Mr Coe has made a promising start by taking aim at the Barr governments land supply, transport and rates policies. The government dismissed development in Kowen despite failing to demonstrate the area has significantly higher infrastructure and environmental costs than the preferred western areas. Given its extensive pine plantations and proximity to employment it could have lower environmental and travel costs. Furthermore the government failed to justify its 70 per cent renewal target despite the likelihood that supplying insufficient land for detached housing will shift demand over the border resulting in increased travel and associated greenhouse emissions, reduced population based grants from the Commonwealth, reduced conveyancing and rates revenue to the Territory and impose additional costs to the ACT in servicing the regional populations.
Coe is right in not committing to the extension of light rail until it has been demonstrated to stack up. Not only does the government need to demonstrate why light rail is a more appropriate technology than bus rapid transport it needs to show it is a better use of limited infrastructure funds than alternatives including increasing the supply of social housing, improvements to the bus system, additional health infrastructure, road improvements including a bridge over the Molonglo, improved city maintenance and a new theatre.

Mr Barr’s suggestion that Mr Coe’s economic policies would not support the community or grow the ACT economy is questionable as the Federal government activity is the main driver of the economy and the diversion of growth to the region from its rates and urban development policies. A lower rate of growth could be beneficial as it could reduce pressure on the environment, health, education and housing services.
Mr Coe’s main barrier to achieving government is the social conservatism of the party he leads.

The Canberra Liberals have literally no ideas beyond dismantling policy.

HiddenDragon6:49 pm 25 Oct 19

“At the heart of this is the ACT Government policy of strangling the supply of land for standalone dwellings”

For some time, now, Jon Stanhope has been making precisely the same point.

Interesting times.

Well that was a thoroughly uninspiring and visionless speech.

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