31 March 2021

Government looks to private sector to solve 'stressed' social housing

| Ian Bushnell
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Housing Minister Yvette Berry

Housing Minister Yvette Berry on the site of new public housing development in Dickson recently. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government has gone to the market seeking social housing providers who can supplement its plans to boost and renew public housing in the Territory.

The Government wants to field a range of proposals for both land and buildings as it works towards its $650 million goal to build 400 new dwellings and renew 1000 properties by 2024-25.

Canberra’s tight and expensive rental market is exacerbating housing stress in the Territory, even for those who may have jobs but whose income is not high enough to afford private rentals.

Welfare groups including the ACT Council of Social Services say there is a shortfall of 3000 affordable dwellings in the ACT and has been calling on the Government to do more to alleviate the situation including providing additional land for affordable housing and boosting the supply of social housing from non-government providers.

The tender document says the 2018 ACT Housing Strategy provides a roadmap for the ACT for the next decade and a key element is a commitment to strengthening social housing assistance.

The two-stage Expression of Interest process covers six categories – land only, house and house and land packages including established dwellings under construction or in design to be built.

The other categories include multi-unit developments of no more than 30 residences, including established complexes, under construction or in design to be built; multi-unit developments where the proposal is for the sale of individual units in a larger development; and any other proposal that would meet Housing ACT’s needs.

The tender document says Housing ACT is seeking more appropriate accommodation configurations to meet the changing needs of tenants and better integration of social housing into the community.

READ ALSO Budget to give extra boost to public housing as report shows decline

It wants housing at the right price that is ‘fit for purpose’ and is cheaper to maintain and run with sustainable, energy-efficient and eco-friendly designs.

Properties that are adaptable and accessible will be preferred.

Housing ACT is particularly interested in replacement housing situated close to amenities and public transport.

It will look at single and multi-storey residences of two to six bedrooms including single and dual occupancy residences.

Multi-unit developments may include townhouses, units and/or apartments) of two to four bedrooms, including low-density developments of three to nine dwellings; medium density of 10 to 25; and high density, of more than 25.

If an entire complex is offered, a maximum yield of 30 will be required on one site, and where units within a larger complex are offered, no more than two dwellings per floor accessed by a single lift well will be considered.

Housing ACT will consider new or existing dwellings; knock-down, design and construct; design and construct and innovative proposals such as residential properties in mixed-use developments.

It will not look at studio apartments or bedsits, proposals requiring Territory plan or land use zoning changes or sites or dwellings in rural or industrial zones

“Providing an equitable, diverse and sustainable supply of housing for households at all income levels is a fundamental pillar of the strategy,” the tender document says.

“Across all stakeholders, community groups and industry professionals who were consulted during the development of the strategy, it was clear that housing pressure and stress points could be alleviated through a better supply of the right type of housing in the right locations.”

Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the government is doing its bit to ease housing pressures.

“The Growing and Renewing Public Housing program is increasing the portfolio’s flexibility to support the provision of safe, secure and sustainable homes that are close to services and transport for more people in need, regardless of their abilities or circumstances,” she said.

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HiddenDragon8:38 pm 04 Apr 21

“….. it was clear that housing pressure and stress points could be alleviated through a better supply of the right type of housing in the right locations.”

With stunning insights like this, the problems will clearly be solved in no time…..

This looks like another lukewarm effort from a government which often appears to be spreading itself and its resources too thinly – seemingly bored with and not overly interested in important areas of day-to-day responsibility (unless they become very high profile, like Covid-19) and drawn, like moths to a (carbon-neutral, of course) flame, to so much that is, spin aside, truly ephemeral and marginal.

Many of the problems here rest at the feet of the federal government – taxation, population, interest rate, and lending standards policies are crucial elements of this mess – but a state or territory government which gave this issue genuine priority could make a real difference, too.

Extortionate rate rises + high land taxes + apartment densification + restricted land releases + cashed up overseas buyers = high rents + high house prices + high mortgages = housing unaffordability.
Despite record low interest rates and 20 years of Greens/Labor bleating, housing has never been so unaffordable.
The great danger lies in the future when home loan interest rates rise and people can’t afford the repayments. In 1989 home loan interest rates got to 17%.
But wealthy ‘progressives’ vote for this regressive ACT Greens/Labor party because a sanctimonious warm inner glow of self-rightousness hides the reality of young people on low incomes struggling to afford a first home.
This is not a family friendly government

What the government needs is some criteria to move people out of public housing after they are standing on their own two feet, then those newly vacated houses and units can be provided to people who are currently in need. Deborah Fosky was elected to the Assembly in 2004, then in 2005 she refused to move out of her public house in Yarralumla, despite her high income. How much of this still goes on today, and how many public housing dwellings should be vacated? The government has clear eligibility criteria to enter public housing, then no moving-out criteria.

pollyhartley10:54 pm 03 Apr 21

Looking to the private sector to solve its problems? What a joke. The government doesn’t want this problem ‘solved’. High property prices are a cash-cow for them so they’re effectively making decisions on housing with a conflict of interest. Not everyone needing housing in Canberra needs social housing either. Those average folks living alone with a pet who want something under $600 a week would benefit from professional organisations who own apartment complexes and manage long term leases. Emphasis on ‘professional’, not amateur. We can learn a lot from Europe (she said for the one millionth time to a government with wax-filled ears)….

Would not recommend the ACT for anyone looking to buy a rental property, as the ACT government has introduced ‘rent control’ and landlords cannot charge the going market rate for rental properties each year. Rents are capped and can only be increased by Canberra CPI (which is currently only 1% each year, so about $7 a week). The ACT government fees and land taxes go up by a lot more than this each year. So it’s a losing situation for owners of rental properties, but a big win for the ACT government. The ACT government also charges excessive land tax on small properties compared to other states. I suggest potential rental property owners investigate carefully and go compare the costs to other states and you will see why owning a rental property in the ACT is not a good idea, and why rentals are becoming so much harder to get in the ACT.

Capital Retro9:42 pm 03 Apr 21

This doesn’t matter to the overpaid public servants who use property rental investments to offset their tax through negative gearing.

That’s a big assumption to make, as lots of rental property owners do not negatively gear (50% according to ATO data). Nor are most rental property owners in the public service…

ACT Housing needs to make sure they have more properties with 2 bedrooms and a lot more with 4 bedrooms. They keep buying properties in high density and that causes even more problems.

Mike of Canberra2:28 pm 03 Apr 21

Why does Housing ACT not ensure all current tenants are meeting lease conditions, including maintaining their homes in good order? Why does it not evict those who persist in this failing despite repeated offers of assistance and other supports? Why does it not conduct a proper audit of all leases to weed out those who fraudulently hold more than one lease, sub-let etc, all on the public purse? Why is there not a requirement that anyone who no longer qualifies for public housing on financial and other grounds surrender their lease other than in exceptional circumstances? Why is Berry not examining and seeking to rectify government-imposed disincentives to private investment in affordable rental housing in the ACT as an alternative to expanding the public estate? Put these and other reforms and improvements together and we’d soon find that the so-called shortage of public housing was nowhere as severe as Berry and other public housing advocates would have us believe.

Capital Retro1:20 pm 03 Apr 21

Chavs are rejoicing already.

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