ACT Government commits to community housing sector growth: An analysis of the ACT budget

The FY20 ACT Government budget makes further commitments to the community housing sector, responding in part to the priority areas put forward by the CHIA ACT Region Committee last October, but the sector continues to wait for past commitments to be implemented.

Identified priority areas that the budget addresses, in part, include:

Large growth in ACT Government’s annual “community housing” targets (minimum of 100), with access to community housing sites by CHPs at a price that enables CHPs to be financially sustainable.

The budget sets a target to release new sites in FY20 to enable CHPs to develop 60 new community housing dwellings. This is an increase on current year commitments to release new sites to enable development of 34 community housing dwellings in FY18 and 20 community housing dwellings in FY19. None of these sites have been made available for CHPs to bid for as yet, and thus the extent of price discounting or other subsidy intended to be provided by the ACT Government is uncertain. CHPs cannot develop and retain community housing dwellings for affordable rent absent a government subsidy.

Inclusionary zoning and other planning incentives for CHPs, or developers in partnership with CHPs e.g. height limits, plot ratio, streamlined approvals, parking

The budget includes a 25% Lease Variation Charge (LVC) remission measure for CHPs to encourage additional affordable rental and purchase opportunities on privately owned land, which has been budgeted to result in a $200,000 annual revenue hit to the ACT Government.

Land tax exemptions for private landlords as well as potential rates concessions conditional upon the management of the properties being outsourced to CHPs for social or affordable rental provision

The budget includes a two year pilot scheme capped at 100 properties to be exempt from land tax, conditional upon the properties being managed by a registered CHP and rented at <75% of market rent to eligible lower income Canberrans. This pilot commenced 1 April 2019 and has been budgeted to result in a $350,000 annual revenue hit to the ACT Government. No rates concessions are provided.

The budget fails to address the other priority area of provision of a rates exemption for CHP-owned social and affordable rental properties, to position CHPs on par with other not-for-profit organisations that provide charitable services other than provision of community housing. Such a measure, if supported by the ACT Government, would save CHPs collectively approximately $1m annually, enabling each to deliver further impact and thus take pressure off ACT Government provided housing and related community services.

In terms of delivering on measures highlighted in the ACT Housing Strategy, the budget does commit to the target of ensuring 15% of all future government land releases are for either public housing, affordable rental housing or affordable purchase opportunities. Disappointingly, the overwhelming weight of properties within the 15% remain on providing affordable purchase opportunities, with less than 10% (less than 1.5% of the total) for affordable rental housing provided by CHPs.

Separate to the above, there are positive measures introduced at the more acute end of the housing spectrum in terms of accommodation and services for the homeless, as well as continued growth of public housing. At the other end of the housing spectrum there are also positive measures in terms of facilitating home ownership for first home buyers.

Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) ACT Region Chair Andrew Hannan says the community housing sector is keen to further engage government as it seeks to implement the measures outlined in the budget and the ACT Housing Strategy, and that the sector would welcome the opportunity to discuss other complementary reforms that may further help lift the supply of affordable housing in a financially sustainable manner. Such measures would enable the government to access the benefits that would flow from leveraging the community housing sector.

‘Canberra is in the midst of a rental affordability crisis, and boasts the highest median rent in the country…with the right ACT Government support the community housing sector has the capacity to more than double its impact over the next 10 years, and through doing so ease the current crisis in which far too many Canberran households are struggling to make ends meet in an overheated private rental market.’

‘Community housing is a proven cost-effective way for State and Territory Governments to deliver affordable housing, but requires an upfront and/or ongoing subsidy to bridge the gap between revenue from the low rent able to be charged to our low-income tenants and the costs of CHPs supplying accommodation,’ Mr Hannan says.

CHIA’s ACT Region Committee member organisations include Argyle, CHC, Catholic Care, Focus ACT, Havelock Housing and Northside Community Services.

 

CHIA ACT Region Chair Andrew Hannan is available for comment on 0404 861 896.­