The ACT government is considering new rules to help shore up supply of cheaper land in the nation's capital, amid concerns that it might struggle to meet its affordable housing targets without an intervention.
But the extent of those changes is unclear, with senior government officials offering differing views on how drastic they might be.
At this week's annual reports hearings, Suburban Land Agency chief executive John Dietz and Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the government was examining what levers it could use to guarantee that affordable dwellings were built on land allocated for that purpose.
It came amid fresh questions about the viability of building low-cost housing in Canberra, given the city's high land prices.
The government has a target of 15 per cent affordable dwellings in new land releases. Almost 500 blocks earmarked for cheaper housing were due to hit the market this financial year, including dozens of lots across Coombs, Taylor, Whitlam and Strathnairn.
The maximum price for an affordable dwelling is $434,000.
At the hearing, opposition leader Alistair Coe and planning spokesman Mark Parton questioned how builders could deliver dwellings under that threshold, given the market price for land in the outer suburbs.
The pair highlighted the suburb of Taylor, which had a median block price of $355,000 as of December last year. The government earlier this year called for expressions of interest for the construction of affordable housing in the Gungahlin suburb, with the land to be sold to builders at market value.
"Are you confident that every affordable block in Taylor will result in an affordable home being built, because the maths don't seem to add up to me," Mr Parton asked the government representatives.
Mr Dietz clarified that the blocks of land slated for affordable housing in Taylor had been chosen because they were cheaper than the suburb's median.
But while he was confident that affordable dwellings would be built on those blocks, he conceded that it would be "challenging".
Mr Dietz said the agency and government were examining its power to "price" land at below-market values, which would give builders more wiggle room to deliver dwellings under the affordable housing threshold. The blocks would still be independently valued, but the valuers would have to factor in the affordable housing thresholds when doing their assessment.
Mr Coe questioned if that approach was legal, given land prices were based on valuations which considered a block's "highest and best use".
In response, Mr Dietz said: "that's exactly what we're confirming at the moment".
Mr Dietz and Ms Berry did not elaborate on the proposal when pressed by Mr Coe. Ms Berry suggested that some form of intervention would be necessary to help the government reach its affordable housing goals.
The Canberra Times sought further clarification from Ms Berry's office about the proposed changes.
ACT Chief Planner Ben Ponton responded on the minister's behalf.
Seeking to clarify Mr Dietz's comments, Mr Ponton said the government already instructed valuers to factor in the affordable housing thresholds when pricing a block of land.
But Mr Ponton said those instructions could be made more explicit, noting that different valuers often delivered different valuations.
He suggested that an affordable housing requirement could be written into a block's crown lease.
"In terms of good governance, we just want to make sure ... is there another way that we can do this to remove any ambiguity in the valuation process," he said.
"[We] want to make [the valuation process] less subjective."