ACT's new affordable housing target rises by just 20 sites

ACT's new affordable housing target rises by just 20 sites

The ACT government has increased its affordable housing targets by just 20 new sites for 2018-19.

The increase comes in a budget some have labelled disappointing for a lack of new measures to target Canberra's housing affordability crisis.

While Housing Minister Yvette Berry foreshadowed a likely housing package in this year's budget in a speech days before Chief Minister Andrew Barr published the documents, only $6.5 million was revealed for specialist homelessness measures.

ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry has promised more on housing to be announced later this year.

ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry has promised more on housing to be announced later this year.Credit:Fairfax Media

The government's indicative land release program, published as part of the budget, shows some 4060 residential blocks will be released in 2018-19, down from the 4120 forecast for the 2017-18 year.


Of the sites to be released in 2018-19, 472 were allocated for "affordable housing" for buyers to purchase, or 11.6 per cent, while just 60 sites will be released this coming fiscal year for public housing, or 1.4 per cent of the total, and 20 sites for community housing, or 0.4 per cent.

It follows University of Sydney housing expert Professor Peter Phibbs labelling the 2017-18 targets as "so small they're insignificant" and Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur criticising those targets at "grossly inadequate".

Of the 472 sites for affordable home purchase, 250 will be smaller sites for individually-titled terrace-style homes or townhouses, rather than free-standing homes.

While the budget documents show the government has already identified some specific sites for each category of affordable housing, a planning directorate spokeswoman said the Suburban Land Agency would decide the precise configuration and location of each block as it drew up the coming years' estate development plan.

Those details are expected to be revealed to the Legislative Assembly before the end of the month.

The affordable housing blocks for sale would be offered first to Canberrans who register on the government's affordable home purchase database, which as of May 30, had 332 registrations of interest competing for 353 allocated sites in the 2017-18 year.

ACT Council of Social Service executive director Susan Helyer said while the government's planned changes to stamp duty for first home buyers was welcome, it would not help Canberrans in the bottom 40 per cent of the ACT's income earners.

She said those people were least able to find an affordable rental property and struggled to save a deposit for a home purchase because of paying such high rents.

Ms Helyer said while the government seemed to understand the "combined ambitions of community housing providers, peak [lobby groups], property developers and the ACT community for actions needed", that understanding had not yet been realised.

"Community and business have come to agreement that we need more affordable housing in this city for the lowest income groups," she said.

"We will continue to bring data, ideas and partners to the decision-making table and we look forward to the ACT government bringing money to the table so we can build housing at a scale to address the problems we face."

While the budget laid out $750,000 for new innovative "housing choices", as part of the long-awaited new housing strategy, there was one item for "innovation to boost affordable housing", but no funding allocated to it, and the government has refused to explain what it is for, or how much money will be allocated to it.

Mr Barr has said since the budget that the government would have "more to say" on housing affordability when it revealed the new strategy later this year, though many stakeholders are wondering why more was not announced in the budget.

It comes as the budget's capital works measures also showed some $68 million worth of new public housing was re-profiled from the 2018-19 fiscal year to 2020-21. These funds will help pay for the 1288 replacement dwellings as part of the government's $600 million public housing renewal program.

While the money was pushed forward, the planning directorate spokeswoman said it only reflected the timing of the final financial arrangements, and that it would not affect the planned June 2019 completion date for the massive project.

That measure, she said in a statement, reflected the financial arrangements for construction payments, land purchase payments, and post-occupancy contractual payments.

Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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