The real test for planning reforms is yet to come

18 June 2008

The passage of planning reforms through the NSW Parliament last night promises some hope to home buyers, renters and those trapped in long commutes to get to work, according to Aaron Gadiel, chief executive of the Urban Taskforce.

Families are under pressure from high rents.


Theyre also unable to get homes within reasonable travelling distance to their workplace.


The gridlocked planning system has been making it harder than ever for developers to supply new housing and well-located employment, Mr Gadiel.


Yesterdays March quarter figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the supply of new housing in NSW has flatlined, and that the state of new housing development was far more depressed than Victoria or Queensland.


With population and demographic pressures, we should be seeing home construction in NSW exceeding, or at least matching Queensland and Victoria – instead, NSW has been further behind, Mr Gadiel said.


The challenge now facing the NSW Government and local councils is how to administer the new laws.


These laws will not make any difference if they arent accompanied by sensible planning decisions based on objective facts.


Home buyers and renters are depending on planning decisions that will deliver new housing and well-located employment.


According to yesterdays Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, in the 12 months to March 2008, the construction of 29,790 new homes commenced in NSW. This is 40 per cent decline of the equivalent figure (50,037) for March 2003. The fall has been much sharper in NSW than either Victoria or Queensland.


Victoria has only experienced a 14 per cent fall on its peak (34,898 for 12 months to March 2003, compared to 30,013 for the 12 months to March 2008). In the same period Queensland has experienced an 8 per cent increase in new housing commencements (39,961 to 43,282). Mr Gadiel said the picture was disappointing for both houses and apartments.


In the past two years NSW apartment construction has fallen to its lowest level since 1992.


The shortage of new homes has forced rents up with an increase of 26 per cent across Sydney (Department of Housing Rent and Sales Reports March 2005 March 2008). Mr Gadiel said that the proposed reforms to expand the categories of development that are regarded as ˜complying will help everyday home owners who want to expand or re-build their homes.


These reforms will make it easier for homes to be built in new suburbs, he said.


The new joint regional planning panels will boost community confidence in planning decisions for some major development approvals.


These new panels create an opportunity to take the politics and some of the corruption risk – out of councils development assessment.


At the end of the day, the legislation will only be successful if it makes it easier for home buyers and renters to get a place to live, and for them to get a job within reasonable travelling distance from their home.


We congratulate the government for announcing an inquiry by the Parliaments State Development Committee into the planning system, including competition issues.


We take this as recognition that the reform process is not yet complete.


This inquiry will provide an important forum to discuss further planning reforms over the next 18 months.


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



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