ACT government holds fire on affordable housing targets

The territory government has again delayed revealing whether or not it will increase its affordable housing targets, despite such a call from Canberrans who took part in its own housing hub.

And it could be another year before a raft of other changes suggested by the hub on zoning, green space and dual occupancies would be implemented with the government referring all such matters to its planned Territory Plan review next year.

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman tabled the response to the housing hub last week. Photo: Fairfax Media

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman tabled the response to the housing hub last week. Photo: Fairfax Media

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman last week tabled the government's formal response to the hub's recommendations, the latest stage in the development of the ACT's long awaited new affordable housing strategy.

But the response indicates little, if anything, will change with the government's current approach to allocating land for affordable, public and community housing, following the release a week ago of its latest targets, which remain at levels that have been widely criticised as too low.

While the the majority of those involved in the hub, a group of 38 residents who met earlier this year, urged the government to increase the amount of land for affordable housing, the response shows the government will not make any changes to the current targets, instead pledging to consider it when it releases the new strategy.

It follows the government two weeks ago updating its previous targets for allocating new and existing land to affordable housing, which was again criticised for being too low.

The hub had also recommended the government mandate larger amounts of green space and soft landscaping on new apartment developments, and allowing dual occupancies with separate titles on RZ1 blocks for free-standing homes, and tighter controls surrounding multi-unit developments on RZ3 and RZ5 blocks.

It also urged the government to retain plot ratio sizes on RZ1 blocks and some had concerns with over-building on some smaller residential blocks, all of which would not be resolved in the coming housing strategy, with the government instead opting to refer them to the Territory Plan review.

The response shows the government considers it has already responded to recommendations to implement other affordable housing options such as co-housing and rent-to-buy models, through the $1 million it has given to some trial projects in such areas.

It will also review the land rent scheme, to analyse potential options to expand it to more eligible buyers, in talks with Treasury and the Suburban Land Agency, though there was no definite commitment to expand it.

The government has backed a recommendation to put greater preference towards infill development, particularly along transport corridors but without sacrificing green space, a call the response said aligns with plans for a "more compact" city.

The response indicates the review of the Territory Plan will also consider the hub's call for more incentives, or potentially stronger rules, to make developers build a greater mix of residential dwellings, and setting a proportion of all new developments to meet universal design standards.

But the government is unlikely to act on the hub's recommendation to ensure building certifiers are completely independent of builders and developers, with the response showing it does not plan to act on that specifically, instead working on more enforcement and auditing of certifiers and inspectors' work.

A further recommendation to help prevent too many taller buildings built too close together - a major concern of many residents - will also be referred to the Territory Plan review.