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.”