“DESPITE the Chief Minister’s publicly stated commitment to urban renewal, very little has been earmarked to assist with revitalisation efforts in our city,” bemoans ACT Property Council executive director Catherine Carter.“The $4.1 million to upgrade to the Canberra Theatre and $1.5 million over two years for lighting and footpath improvements in Braddon are welcome, but the sums are very modest,” she says.
“Projects such as a new hospital, City to the Lake, the renewal of public housing stock and new roads are all important projects, but they are not new, and are not part of a targeted urban renewal program.
“We are particularly disappointed to note that no major projects or initiatives have been earmarked for the renewal of our tired city centre, which is in desperate need of attention.
“Revitalising our city centre is essential for Canberra to remain competitive and attractive in the 21st century, and it is disappointing that this is not a priority in this year’s Budget.
Unfair taxes and charges remain a sticking point in the Budget, said Ms Carter.
“Inequitable fees and charges continue to apply a handbrake on efforts to revitalise Canberra, in particular the city centre,” she said.
“The Chief Minister says he wants Canberra to be the ‘most liveable city in the world’. However, this Budget overlooks a key driver of the ACT economy – the commercial property sector – which has an essential role to play in the Government’s urban renewal agenda and in attracting investment to our city.
“We are disappointed with the 25 per cent increase in the Fire and Emergency Service Levy, which comes on top of the 35 per cent increase in 2015. This levy can translate into tens of thousands of dollars each year for commercial property owners.
“The ACT Government is forecasting an increase in revenue from the Lease Variation Charge from $14.2 million in 2014-15 to $16.3 million in 2015-16, due to cessation of the remissions available under the economic stimulus package.
“It’s clear to anyone visiting Canberra that the LVC has been a massive obstacle to adaptive reuse in our city for a number of years. If we want a vibrant city centre, we need supportive policies that encourage adaptive reuse, not taxes that stifle redevelopment.”