Streamlined housing rules are great, but they need to apply to the private sector too

18 February 2009

The NSW governments announcement that it will streamline town planning rules for public housing projects is welcome, but the same measures should be adopted for private sector projects, according to the Urban Taskforce.

The Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the Federal Governments stimulus packages were designed to boost both public housing and privately-developed housing.


The first fiscal stimulus package introduced a $21,000 federal grant for newly built homes purchased by first home buyers, Mr Gadiel said.


As a result of the increased grant, an extra 7,700 first-time buyers were able to secure a home of their own home between October and December last year.


The second stimulus package launched a plan to build 20,000 newly-built public housing homes – some of which are to be sourced from the private sector through off-the-plan and spot purchases.


The state government needs to give both public and private housing developments the same support.


First home owners have been buying into previously approved developments in large numbers.


Yet the supply of new privately developed homes is rapidly drying up.


In the three months to September 2008, construction work started on less than 6,000 new homes in NSW a 26 per cent fall on the equivalent 2007 figure. This is 44 per cent below the average figure recorded for this quarter back to 1984.


Less NSW homes were approved for construction in December than in any other month in recorded history. In fact, 2008 was the worst year for new home approvals in NSW ever recorded.


The government is right to allow higher density developments within 800 metres of all Sydney metropolitan railway stations, regardless of the zoning of the land, Mr Gadiel said.


However, there is no reason why this rule should be limited to public housing.


In fact, the NSW Governments own Metropolitan Strategy set out an agenda to support apartment development near train stations and other high quality transport infrastructure.


For the same reason, home buyers should have the same right as a public housing tenant to live near the commercial centre of a regional city.


The governments proposal to allow the Department of Housing to self-approve social housing developments of up to 20 dwellings should be matched by a complying development code for equivalent private sector developments.


This would enable private developments to benefit from a streamlined approval process and improve the ability of these projects to secure investment.


The federal governments first home buyers scheme will cease working if the supply of privately developed homes dries up.


Mr Gadiel said any public housing benefiting from special development rules must remain as public housing permanently.


It would inappropriate for public housing to be developed under special rules and then later sold-off as private housing, he said.


That would give government-backed developers a special advantage over other developers.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.


For every $1million in construction expenditure, 27 jobs are created throughout the broader economy. The construction activity made possible by property developers contributes $69 billion to the national economy each year and creates 709,000 direct jobs. The construction industry is Australias third largest source of employment.



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