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

Dominic Giannini 2 July 2020 37
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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37 Responses to Liberals criticise high-density housing as Labor misses land release target
Joanne Gallagher Joanne Gallagher 11:14 pm 05 Jul 20

There is a lot of vested interest in having apartments. Developers, Real estate agents, conveyancing firms, government.

Same old people getting rich off shoddy apartments.

Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 5:01 pm 05 Jul 20

Yes, and I'm not a Liberal voter these days. I hate the number of apartments. When we downsize we'll be moving out of the ACT.

    Jp Romano Jp Romano 7:26 pm 05 Jul 20

    Margaret Welsh move somewhere backwards. Apartments are the future.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 5:10 am 06 Jul 20

    Jp Romano heaven help us. The ACT apartments are dropping in value. Houses are still rising. I have lived in an apartment a couple of times and never want to do that again.

    Jp Romano Jp Romano 8:42 am 06 Jul 20

    Margaret Welsh you’re wrong. Shadow me your facts.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 11:41 am 06 Jul 20

    What makes you say I'm wrong? Show me your evidence

Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 4:01 pm 03 Jul 20

Its population people ... so many have moved to ACT placing increasing costs on services and infrastructure to a point that prices have shot up and up. Ridicilous nowadays and not value.

Phil Hopkins Phil Hopkins 2:29 pm 03 Jul 20

Yes, Coombes is a joke.... flats everywhere.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 12:00 pm 03 Jul 20

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.

    JC JC 7:51 am 04 Jul 20

    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.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 1:32 pm 06 Jul 20

    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.

    JC JC 5:41 pm 06 Jul 20

    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.

    JC JC 5:56 pm 06 Jul 20

    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.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 10:10 pm 06 Jul 20

    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?

    JC JC 1:04 pm 07 Jul 20

    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 quirk michael quirk 8:51 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.

    JC JC 7:54 am 04 Jul 20

    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.

    chewy14 chewy14 11:31 am 06 Jul 20

    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.

    JC JC 5:45 pm 06 Jul 20

    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.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:11 pm 06 Jul 20

    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.

Acton Acton 10:55 pm 02 Jul 20

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.

    watto23 watto23 1:53 pm 05 Jul 20

    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.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:37 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.

Robert Hawes Robert Hawes 5:42 pm 02 Jul 20

The answer is not more land, but rezone the land. Allow more dual occupancy. No more single houses on big blocks.

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 10:16 pm 02 Jul 20

    Robert Hawes the average block for a sin feel is like 350m2 which is tiny as.

Alan Rose Alan Rose 5:01 pm 02 Jul 20

Too many apartments, but the reason they do it is for more rates for the government.

Rheyce Spears Rheyce Spears 3:52 pm 02 Jul 20

They’re correct that a good part of the reason for the disgustingly high house prices in Canberra is a lack of supply in the market.

That doesn’t mean I trust the Liberals to fix the issue though. As a young person, essentially locked out of the housing market by way of an abject lack of affordability, I’m yet to see the LNP enact any policies that actually bring about change beyond small tokenistic snips at the edge, but their policies are a good chunk of the reason why my generation will never be able to aspire to the same wealth or home ownership dreams that older generations did.

It’s honestly disgusting, and I can’t figure out why younger people aren’t making more noise out of it, because they’re being locked out of the property market in ways no previous generation in this country’s history ever have.

    Vicki Nunn Vicki Nunn 8:48 pm 02 Jul 20

    Rheyce Spears Have I missed something in the last almost twenty years? I thought Labor was in Canberra? Funny that housing in Canberra has become impossible for young people to afford but I guess that has nothing to do with Canberra’s Labor gov. But go ahead, vote Labor again and let Barr sell our souls.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:24 pm 02 Jul 20

    Vicki Nunn No, no, my shoes need their soles 😮.

    Vicki Nunn Vicki Nunn 11:31 pm 02 Jul 20

    Julie Macklin You are right! 🙂

    Allan AJ Allan AJ 3:29 am 03 Jul 20

    Rheyce Spears there are currently about 50 free standing houses in Canberra on Allhomes between $500,000-$600,000. Going by the average wage this should affordable for a first home buyer.

    If you can’t afford this I’d say your expectations are unaffordable not the housing market

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 8:11 am 03 Jul 20

    Vicki, she’s clearly talking about the liberals at federal level. And if you think they don’t have any influence over housing prices too you have missed something.

    Vicki Nunn Vicki Nunn 9:57 am 03 Jul 20

    Leigh Brady perhaps. It appears to me that the news article is in reference to Canberra and in that respect my response reflects the Labor government in ACT. Regardless, the housing market is mad and has become a challenge for first home buyers.

    Assid Uous Assid Uous 12:45 am 04 Jul 20

    Unfortunately Rheyce, ACT labor have demonstrated over many years they firmly hold the view that inflating land prices is in their interest. Based on RBA analysis on zoning costs, we can estimate that 30-40% of the cost of building in the ACT is due to ACT land use policies and land release strategy. In other words, a $800k build in Coombs includes a $280k "lump sum tax payment" to the ACT government over and above the real cost of the developed land. Ex ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope is aghast at the situation. The only chance to change this situation is to get rid of them. Your sense of disgust reflects a recognition of grossly short sighted and unfair policies, policies that effectively act to enforce a wealth transfer from young people such as yourself to the nations rent seekers, the FIRE (Finance, Insurance & Real Estate) sector in which i would include tax advantaged land owners and property investors who all stand ready to take their cut from the next generation of property-ponzi debt slaves. ACT Labors policies encourage land banking, inefficient use of housing stock, low quality construction, record high household debt, high input costs, lower family formation, and inefficient costly developments further afield in NSW. Absent a change of government, I think the best option for young people is to live with their parents or leave the ACT for a community that will value them, and fairly shares the cost of planning and development to cater for a growing population across the community.

    Scott Lang Scott Lang 6:27 am 06 Jul 20

    Allan AJ , perhaps you are right. But I'd be looking for something at half that price. Unlike the older generation, I have to fund my own retirement...and for those younger than me, there may be no pension at all. I don't see the point in borrowing 500K in my forties, and not being able to pay it off until I'm 80. Not only are there costs on the way in, but what happens when I need aged care at that age? And if I borrow that much now, what, exactly happens to my super?

    If there is a big gap between what one generation can afford to pay, and what the other thinks an asset is worth on paper, then clearly something has to give.

    I suspect we (Australia) are like Japan in the late 1980's. Apart from Tokyo, land and other asset prices are still well down on what they were in 1989.

    Allan AJ Allan AJ 9:31 am 06 Jul 20

    Scott Lang you should of knuckled down early on and bought in your 20’s not try to start doing it in your 40’s.

Mat Barber Mat Barber 2:36 pm 02 Jul 20

Crash the market please so us youngins can get a look in

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