2 July 2020

Liberals criticise high-density housing as Labor misses land release target

| Dominic Giannini
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Apartment complexes

The Liberals have criticised the ACT Government for relying too heavily on the development of apartment complexes on released land. Photo: File.

Overdevelopment in Canberra is shaping up to be a key election issue after it was revealed that the lion’s share of land released in the ACT over the last five years was for apartment blocks and compact dwellings.

Over the last six financial years, the percentage of single dwelling blocks has not risen above 28 per cent, and fell as low as 9 per cent in 2014/15. This compares with 64 per cent in 2010/11, and more than 50 per cent in both 2008/09 and 2012/13.

The ACT Government has also missed its land release target by 3,500 lots since the 2008/09 financial year.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said there was plenty of land that can still be allocated in Canberra, but did not detail what land the Liberals would release if they came to power in October.

“You have the Government buying paddocks, supposedly for suburban development, yet on the other hand saying we do not have any land in the ACT – there are plenty of opportunities for land release in the ACT,” Mr Coe said.

“We know that west of Weston Creek, and west of Belconnen there are still huge amounts of land that are available for suburban development.

“At more than $1000 a square metre, so many Canberra families are locked out of the ACT.”

The ACT Government hit back claiming the Liberals plan will “slash the value of land and send the housing market crashing”.

“Any family that has a mortgage or fully owns their own home will see the value of their home reduced. Those who purchased recently and do not have a lot of equity in their home may find themselves in negative equity,” a spokesperson for Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman said.

“Households come in all shapes and sizes. Our housing market and land release program needs to reflect that diversity. Of the 170,000 dwellings in Canberra, around 110,000 or 63 per cent are single residential homes.

“The Government is continuing to deliver land for both single, freestanding homes and multi-unit developments such as apartments, townhouses and retirement villages to cater for people in different stages of life and with various needs.”

There are still over 350 blocks of land for sale in the ACT, the spokesperson said.

Mark Parton

Shadow Housing Minister Mark Parton says young Canberran families are being forced to head over the border to find affordable houses. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Shadow Housing Minister Mark Parton said that while there will always be a place for infill development in Canberra, Mr Barr had put too much emphasis on apartments.

“There is no place to put the trampoline in a two or three-bedroom apartment,” he said.

“I spent some time during the NSW election doorknocking in Googong, and most of the people I came across were refugees from Tuggeranong.

“They wanted to build something in Canberra but couldn’t.”

The Liberals also criticised the Government for forcing young Canberran families out of the market and out of the ACT in their search for single dwelling houses because of the inadequate amount of land being released.

“What we want to do is release things to the market that the market actually wants and if you read the Auditor-General’s report that was released last week into land supply, one of the most scathing aspects was the affordable housing program,” Mr Parton said.

“Those in that space said, ‘we want standalone houses and three bedrooms’, and that is not what they were offered.”

Canberra remains one of the most expensive cities in Australia, with a median house price of just under $790,000 and a median unit price of just over $455,000 according to a recent Domain report.

This was an increase in the median price of 7.3 per cent for houses and 4 per cent for units in the December 2019 quarter, the report said.

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If our NSW neighbours hadn’t built tens of thousands of free standing houses on our doorstep, then I would understand Mr Barr’s argument for not opening up more land in the ACT.

In reality however. Residents from Googong, Jerrabomberra, the Ridgeway etc primarily work and play in Canberra. They drive cars, don’t use Canberra public transport and don’t pay Canberra rates and taxes.

This is ultimately has a greater environmental and social cost than providing better land planning opportunities within the ACT.

Surely there’s opportunities within the ACT border to build terrace style housing and yards with nearby schooling, working and shopping opportunities.

ACT Land and Planning have dropped the ball over the last decade and property developers picked it up and ran with it.

Two points block sizes in those Queanbeyan suburbs you mentioned have always been on par with Canberra suburbs developed at the same time.

Secondly re terrace housing with yards take a drive out to Taylor. There are parts of that suburb that have exactly that.

Taylor has a mix of everything really apartments, terrace, small, medium and large blocks.

Plus you will also see quite a lot of free standing blocks for sale. Which says to me that lack of block supply is not the issue.

Surely you can’t be serious JC. Even the governments own Auditor General says there’s not enough available affordable land in Canberra for housing.

If as you say “a lack of block supply isn’t an issue”, Why would over two and a half thousand blocks of land in Googong have been sold over the last few years?

The Suburban Land Agency only has 30 Canberra blocks of land for sale at the moment. There’s more than that available in Googong alone.

Your count of blocks doesn’t factor in those that have been sold to builders for house and land packages. Go for a drive and have a look at how many there are. It is substantially more than 30.

And doesn’t matter if there has been land sold in Googong. You make it sound like people have brought there solely because they “cannot” buy in Canberra when in fact many shock horror choose to buy there. Just like many choose higher density properties in Canberra too.

Oh BTW I just checked your 30 block claim and it’s false.

Here is the count of blocks for sale in the act. All standalone residential.

Taylor 263 (and this doesn’t count the stages being built at the back now)

Coombs 16

Throsby 29

Wright 33

Whitlam 0 with next stage due to be released soon.

Oh and in addition to the above there are blocks available at Ginninderry.

Your trying to create diversions to what I’m actually saying. Please Read again.

Firstly, Realestate online says 48 empty blocks for sale in Googong and Land Development agency online says it has 30 ACT blocks for direct sale. That’s what I’m quoting.

But just to be clear. Of course I’m not saying Googong has more land for sale than a 400,000 plus city of Canberra. Just highlighting one example of an over the border Suburb showing how people who mostly work in Canberra are buying new land and house properties outside of the ACT.

There has been 2,700 odd blocks sold in Googong over the last few years.

Are saying that You don’t think all these new property developments outside the ACT borders have any relevance to Canberra? Are you saying the ACT has been releasing land in line with the wishes of buyers?

The figures I gave above are also from the LDA website and are also direct sale. This was from the interactive for sale section.

That does not count the others that I mentioned that Have already been allocated to builders for house and land packages.

michael quirk8:51 am 03 Jul 20

The reluctance of the Barr government to release sufficient land for low density housing is a factor increasing land and house prices in the ACT. It also contributes to the growth in demand in surrounding NSW including Googong. Growth in these areas increases the amount of car based travel and associated greenhouse emissions. The development also reduces the rates , land revenues and population based Commonwealth payments compared to the situation if more of the growth had been accommodated in the ACT.

The situation undermines Barr government 70% renewal strategy.
What is needed is a regional planning strategy where alternative population and employment distributions are assessed to deliver the most environmentally, socially and financially. sustainable outcome.

It would include an assessment of future sources of land supply in the ACT including Kowen. The Strategy should be based on detailed analysis and not the rhetoric and spin that has characterized many of the Barr government’s planning documents.

If you can somehow leave the leafy surrounds of Deakin I would suggest you drive north to Taylor. There are no shortage of blocks for sale of various sizes. Not Deakin sized of course but I think Canberra and the planet are thankful of that.

Taylor Is a bit of an outlier from recent releases though, mainly because the topography and views lend itself to some bigger blocks because of the premium dollars they can command for them.

It’s also the edge of possible ACT development so was never going to have the kinds of higher density we see elsewhere.

Not that I personally think those higher density developments are a bad thing by the way.

Umm based on your comment it is clear you have not been to Taylor.

Yes there are some larger blocks in the higher parts, but there are also higher density too including appartments, terraces and town house development. Me personally I think Taylor, Moncreif, and to a lesser extent Throsby are models of how it should be done greenfields. A mix of everything with higher density in the core of the suburb moving out into “bigger“ blocks.

But you are right about Taylor there is some good land out there with great views.

I’ve been to Taylor, i know exactly what is on offer there.

My point was it is a bit different to recent land releases in the mix of dwellings on offer, particularly of what will be the higher sections.

But I also wasn’t saying that is a bad thing. The areas around major transport corridors such as Molonglo around John Gorton drive, lend themselves to the higher densities seen over a wider area.

With regards to the “Halo” effect of developments seen in NSW, lower density land is clearly at a premium in the ACT, which does drive people across the border.

But once again, i dont see this as necessarily a bad thing, it allows a greater overall mix for people to choose from in the region whilst also recognising the financial importance of land sales to the functuoning of our government.

The ACT has a finite supply of Greenfield land, we need to ensure it’s planned for and delivered to market appropriately.

Habitual ACT Labor supporters need to realise that gradually, over time, without them even realising it, they have become the unwitting dupes and pawns of property developers, real estate agents and the building industry. The party they support is so far removed from its original ideals as to be in effect simply a front for big business, building big apartment complexes and making big profits.

So why can’t the liberals provide a solution to this problem. They are very good at pointing out everything Labor does wrong, but reality is there are no perfect solutions either. Suburban sprawl costs a lot more to service. Far more than the measly tram everyone cries about when it comes to rates. It also creates greater traffic issues. Maybe some of the voters might change their vote, if the ACT Liberals give us a realistic plan. Sure they’ll say they’ll release more land and then when that is gone, what is the solution. How are we going to pay for the extra services we’ll need for the larger suburban footprint as they are proposing a rates freeze. Also. evidence suggests that property developers get along just as well with the Liberal party as they do the Labor party. I’d suggest many voters feel like they have no choices and vote for the devil they know over the one they don’t know, more so than being pawns and duped.

HiddenDragon7:37 pm 02 Jul 20

So in the weird little parallel universe which is ACT politics we have a Labor-Green government squawking about the prospect of house prices crashing and a Liberal opposition worried about housing options for young families – essentially a complete reversal of what happened at the last federal election.

Federal Labor had the right priority last year, and the ACT Liberals have it now.

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