7 February 2021

Liberals unveil plan to help ease Canberra's ongoing rental crisis

| Ian Bushnell
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Mark Parton

Canberra Liberals’ Mark Parton wants more government support for community housing providers. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The soaring cost of renting a home in Canberra needs a multi-pronged response from government that involves community housing providers (CHPs), according to the Canberra Liberals, who have released a list of actions that they say should be investigated.

It comes as community housing provider Havelock House met with Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman about proposals to boost affordable housing supply in the ACT, beyond the government’s current Housing Strategy.

Housing spokesperson Mark Parton said the ball was in the Labor-Greens Government’s court to fix the ACT’s rental crisis.

“Canberra has become the country’s most expensive rental market under Labor and the Greens, and the reality is that many families are seriously struggling with massive price hikes,” Mr Parton said.

“Recent CoreLogic data shows median house rents are now $657 per week while unit rents are $473 per week. That’s a hell of a lot for families with stretched incomes to contend with.”

In a motion to the Legislative Assembly next week, the Canberra Liberals will call on the Labor-Greens Government to investigate a range of options involving more support for CHPs.

They say the government should investigate shared equity arrangements, and where the government provides land for CHPs to provide housing while maintaining an ownership stake.

It should also look at rent supplementation lease arrangements – where the government would undertake bulk auctions of long-term leases to CHPs.

The Liberals say the supplement would provide an incentive for institutional investment partnerships with CHPs.

It is urging the immediate extension of lease durations currently let out to CHPs by Housing ACT, to give long-term certainty for CHPs to borrow and grow.

The Liberals also say the government should consider more extensive land tax exemptions and rates rebates for landholders leasing to CHPs, and investigate a NSW-style land tax threshold where the tax is only paid on the value of the land over a certain amount.

The government should also reassess the current land release regime to determine whether supply is meeting demand.

Mr Parton said the government was all talk on rental affordability.

“That is why today the Canberra Liberals are calling for the investigation of a number of solutions, many involving community housing providers, that the government should seriously consider adopting, to help make life easier for Canberra families dealing with prohibitive rents,” he said.

Mr Parton said the government needed to embrace new policy ideas, especially with regards to how CHPs can be part of the affordable housing solution for struggling renting families.

“The Canberra Liberals are putting these ideas forward in good faith, and I now challenge the Labor-Greens Government to take them on board and consider them as part of their policy mix going forward in 2021,” Mr Parton said.

Havelock Housing is also calling on the government to consider such policies and briefed Mr Gentleman on Thursday.

It has proposed the government offer direct capital or land grants to community housing organisations at no charge, or at least at concessional rates, as done in NSW and Victoria.

It also believes Lease Variation Charge concessions could be provided to local builders/developers who partner with a community housing organisation.

Havelock sees more options in the tax system, such as a 50 per cent discount on rates for landlords taking up the government’s Land Tax Exemption scheme who commit to a three-year lease, to entice more participants.

Rates exemptions for community housing providers would also help them deliver a more affordable product, it says.

On new land, Havelock says not enough of the 15 per cent land allocated generally to affordable and/or social housing in new estates is being taken up and is urging the government to do more, including specifically nominating what blocks are for, whether that be for people with a disability or social or affordable housing.

It also wants the government to negotiate with developers of large englobo estates (land that is undeveloped, largely unserviced or has minimal development) for a percentage of housing that includes a mixture of community and affordable housing managed by CHPs.

A spokesperson for Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the government looked forward to receiving the details of the motion being proposed by Mr Parton.

“A number of the suggestions are already under consideration or are underway through the ACT Housing Strategy,” the spokesperson said.

“The government will work through the details of this motion through the ACT Assembly.”

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You can make money renting property in Canberra but only if you can negatively gear. Without that there is minimal return annually on the rental income given the value of the asset- only growth in the properties value when you eventually sell it. Of course there’s also CGT on that as well.
Overall I cannot see why I would invest in the ACT properly market when across the border in NSW returns are so much better as there’s little in the way of land taxes.

Capital Retro5:11 pm 01 Mar 21

Negative gearing is a very popular hobby for many overpaid public servants.

Rob Taglienti2:52 pm 09 Feb 21

Being new to Canberra you notice a few things straight away. Enormous amounts of vacant land and very few blocks for sale. Those that are for sale are for sale at highly inflated prices The cost developing a block wouldn’t be more than 100k. I see the government selling the blocks for over 3 times that. Without knowing more about the procedures and history it looks like Mafia racketeering to someone looking in from the outside….

Oh, we’re a captive audience.
And those whom we should trust are not shy of being the frist to make a profit from us.

The only thing that Labor and the Greens have done for rental affordability in the last 20 years is to make it much worse, year after year. Between stupid legislation and ever increasing land rates, it just never ends.

On the up side to this, the people most impacted by this are largely the ones that vote for Labor and the Greens. So, you get what you deserve.

If you believe they are about to change anything, I have some magic beans you may be interested in purchasing.

Oddly enough the ones most impacted are likely to vote Liberals.

The labor base has shifted significantly in the past 20 years. Most noticeable at a federal level. Labor seems to attract more of the not so poor and the not so wealthy, which in Canberra makes up a large amount of the population hence the return of Labor with the help of the greens who also do well in Canberra.

I think you’re right JC. It’s a weird mix Canberra politics! The Libs have been raising a number of concerns around housing, health, education and public transport that clearly effect the people who are worse off in the city.

I support Canberra Libs for these social concerns, but I couldn’t vote for them when they have these other loony ultra conservative views that don’t align with Canberra voters.

ACT Liberal voting base is rich inner south residents and the people in the suburbs who feel ignored by the ACT Labor and Greens alliance.

Barr and Rattenbury talk up support for the working poor but continue to support those who win them elections.

I dunno about that. About every lower income person I know vote Labor religiously, because they listen to the nonsense that the Liberals only look after the wealthy and Labor look out for the less fortunate. In the ACT, that is clearly not the case. Not exactly a surprise that large swathes of people are ignorant of the actual policies driven by the people they vote for though.

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