Canberra’s affordable housing targets aren’t being met

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A REPORT released by the ACT auditor-general today (June 26) shows that affordable housing targets were not met in 2017-18 and 2018-19. 

The report, titled Residential Land Supply and Release, presented by auditor-general Michael Harris, states that a key action of the “ACT Housing Strategy (2018)”, an annual four-year rolling program encompassing the ACT Budget, is to “dedicate at least 15 per cent of the Indicative Land Release Program each year to affordable, community and public housing”. 

Although land has been released for affordable housing purposes, there has been poor take-up of this land to date by the ACT community, according to the report.

“This is likely to be a reflection of affordable housing land releases thus far being primarily one or two bedroom units, while the majority of eligible purchasers are seeking three bedroom dwellings and single houses on compact blocks,” Mr Harris says. 

“In the three years between 2016-17 and 2018-19, the Suburban Land Agency (and its predecessor the Land Development Agency) has released land for up to 12,420 dwellings. While this land has been counted as ‘released’, because it has been offered to the market, it may not necessarily have been sold.

“As at May 2020 the Suburban Land Agency had land for 1549 dwellings available for sale across a range of locations and land for 886 dwellings relating to the former Northbourne Flats (Braddon and Turner) remains unsold after its release in June 2018. The Suburban Land Agency has identified and reported the financial implications of not selling land for residential purposes as expected, namely lower revenues received from lower land sales.

“Expectations for land sales in 2019-20 are expected to remain subdued, and have latterly been further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The audit reviewed the processes used to develop the ACT government’s “Indicative Land Release Program” and the delivery of the program against agreed targets and timeframes, and has made seven recommendations. 

Recommendation four advises the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate to provide greater
information and transparency on land supply to the ACT market by identifying the nature of dwellings expected to be yielded through the Indicative Land Release Program, such as detached housing or multi-unit developments.

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