Housing has emerged as an election flashpoint after today’s ACTCOSS Leaders Forum, with Opposition Leader Alistair Coe making an extraordinary attack on Canberra’s cross-border neighbours and ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury sniping at the government for spending money on random road duplications.
Mr Coe launched his attack after deflecting a question from ACTCOSS CEO and forum host Dr Emma Campbell about how his party would pay for services given he has committed to freezing rates and will have less revenue to work with.
He argued that by making housing more affordable in the ACT, the Territory would retain more people and grow the economic pie rather than sending Canberrans into exile across the border.
”Why are we sending first home buyers and renters over the border into NSW where they will forever pay rates, taxes, fees and charges in NSW … rather than here in the ACT, despite the fact there is a fair chance they’re still going to use ACT schools, ACT roads, ACT hospitals etc?
”I don’t think we should be encouraging theses satellite towns outside of the ACT full of exiles, people who have been driven over the border. We’ve seen this sort of policy failure in America … It shouldn’t be that way.
”We should be competing here in Canberra. We should be providing the housing stock that our city so desperately needs.”
ACT leaders debate with Shane Rattenbury MLA, Andrew Barr ACT Chief Minister, and Alistair Coe MLA head-to-head for the first time this election. The debate will be facilitated by Emma Campbell, CEO of ACTCOSS – ACT Council of Social Service Inc. covering the urgent social issues important to all Canberrans.
Posted by The RiotACT on Tuesday, 1 September 2020
Mr Coe identified the problem as high rents in Canberra and not enough freestanding houses, accusing the government of railroading people into apartments.
Apart from offering more support for community housing, Mr Coe has said his party would release more greenfield land for housing and reverse the government’s infill policy.
Mr Rattenbury zeroed in on this while supporting the idea of the compact city.
”Every new suburb that is built on the edge of town consumes remnant bushland and wildlife habitat and, more importantly, also drives transport poverty,” he said.
”The further away you live the greater your transport costs so we are simply not going to say keep expanding Canberra outwards.
”We don’t want to cross the Murrumbidgee River, we don’t want to go out on the Kowen Plateau. We want to provide accommodation where there are also services, where there is good public transport.”
But he also took aim at the government’s priorities, saying that with the tight fiscal outlook government will need to make tough choices.
”We need, in this city in the next four years, housing more than we need road duplications across our city,” he said.
Mr Rattenbury said the Greens took a ”housing-first approach”, and referred to their previously announced plan to boost public and social housing.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr noted that the cost of housing was a challenge everywhere but said the roots of the problem went back to the Howard Government’s coupling of capital gains tax concessions with negative gearing.
He said the government would continue to invest in its $1 billion public housing program, social housing such as the Common Ground initiative and release new land. He also flagged more announcements on build-to-rent schemes.
He pointed out that building approvals for July were well up on the previous month and the same time last year.
Mr Barr also said there was no evidence to support Mr Coe’s claim that people were fleeing across the border to escape unaffordable Canberra.