8 March 2022

Probing the polls: working from home and opening up land releases

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Housing development.

Would releasing more land solve the price pressures in the ACT’s housing market? Photo: Michelle Kroll.

As COVID-19 restrictions ease for the first time in about two years, will you be heading back to the office?

As the Opposition argues that getting people back into offices would revive the economy and revitalise our city and town centres, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says that boat has sailed.

He’s arguing that we all need to adjust to people working at least partially from home, noting that in any case many of the empty offices belong to the Commonwealth, not the ACT Public Service.

We asked: Do we need to go back to full-time work in the office?

1086 readers participated. Your choices were to vote No, the pandemic has changed our work habits for good. That received 735 votes, or 68 per cent of the total vote. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, it’s time to move on and revive small business too. This received 32 per cent of the total, or 351 votes.

This week, we’re wondering whether more land supply is the answer to the ACT’s housing price pressures?

Critics say the ACT Government is to blame for the housing affordability problem because it’s not releasing enough land and last week, in the Assembly, Liberals spokesperson for planning Peter Cain used the ballot for land in Macnamara as an example.

12,300 registrations were received for only 71 blocks of land and Mr Cain argued the speed at which the government supplies new land impacts the ACT’s “skyrocketing median house price”.

But Chief Minister Andrew Barr pointed out that the release of new land constitutes less than two per cent of the total housing market, so it could not possibly affect the price of houses in established suburbs in inner Canberra or even Belconnen.

The executive director of the Housing Industry Association (HIA) in the ACT, Greg Weller, said both sides have a point. While new homes are only a small part of the market, Mr Weller doesn’t believe the government is distributing land in a way that is helping to control accelerating prices.

At the heart of the argument is a long-running debate about infill versus greenfield development.

READ ALSO Would increasing land supply solve the ACT’s housing woes?

George Watling wrote: “We also need to note recent Australian research has demonstrated that housing prices go up with densification not down. So building high density micro-block suburbs and urban infilling our existing suburbs won’t bring house prices down either.

“We need to make it easier for people to move and work in regional towns and centres that have room to expand like Wagga Wagga and Goulburn”.

Kimberley Lloyd said: “Any land release should not be open to investors. Stop going on about first-time buyers and think about those who have been kicked out and had to sell and need to get back into the market. All those who have outgrown their current home.

“You only need the one home for your family and they are making it far too hard. Apartment life is not for everyone and some people need the space. It’s not unusual to have multiple generations under one roof for care reasons. With the median house prices being what they are, quality of life in Canberra has taken a nose dive.”

Our poll question this week is:

Would releasing more land solve Canberra's housing pressures?

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It is about time the building industry got into the 21st Century and began using high technology design and materials to make prebuilt houses that are worth living in and are affordable. Not rocket science!

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