A housing affordability expert has branded the ACT government's affordable housing targets as "so small they're almost insignificant", suggesting the government's control of land supply means it should be doing more.
The government published last week new targets for affordable, community and public housing across Canberra, revealing it would be only about 3.5 per cent of land to be released this financial year, ahead of new targets from July.
University of Sydney's Professor Peter Phibbs, who has more than 20 years of experience in housing research, said the targets should be "much higher" given the current national housing boom, and the targets were "so small they're almost insignificant".
Prof Phibbs also said that given the small size of the ACT's housing market compared to other states, and the government's virtual monopoly on land release, "it strikes me that the government isn't really doing the job" when it came to addressing housing affordability.
"I'm just surprised they aren't doing more, because there's an opportunity in Canberra, you've got a supposedly progressive Labor government, one that controls the land supply lever and it seems they're not using it," he said.
"What the boom has done across the country is generate a lot of revenue for state governments through stamp duty, and while the territory is trying to reform stamp duty, now is the time to act."
Prof Phibbs also said the ACT government's relatively high land sales profit margins probably exceeded the industry standard, depending on the nature of the development, but the government did not face the same risk private developers did in other states.
"It's another reason the government should be reinvesting that revenue from the profit margins into better addressing housing affordability," he said.
"If they're simply taking the revenue from land sales to run various parts of the government, then to me it looks like government is part of the problem."
Similarly, Master Builders ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins said the profit margins were a "very healthy return" for the government, which could use the funds to release more discounted land for community housing providers while still maintaining a "strong financial return".
He said the government's land release targets had only 692 blocks for detached housing to be released this financial year, or about 24 per cent of all dwellings.
Mr Hopkins said that fell "well short of community demand" and would likely lead to increased land prices, "putting the dream of purchasing a family home further out of reach of many Canberrans".
Housing Minister Yvette Berry is working on a new housing affordability strategy and has previously said she remains dedicated to the issue, despite the low targets for 2017-18.
While no new public housing is touted for the urban renewal precinct in the city and along Northbourne Avenue, a government spokesman has said those areas already had a high proportion of social housing, with 317 sites in Turner, 294 in O'Connor and 185 in Downer.
But Prof Phibbs said the territory government should be using its "unique position" among all jurisdictions to perhaps reduce government profit margins, but generate more public housing for the ACT.
"It's just worrying because this is a time where households need help because the market is so expensive, and not everyone in Canberra is a wealthy public servant," he said.
"It surprised me because not long ago, the ACT had probably the best housing strategy in Australia by a long margin, but now the government just seems to be going through the motions."
Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times
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