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Canberra Today 10°/15° | Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The disingenuous spin that’s never questioned

“The ACT government tries to distract by talking up its housing-renewal programs. The reality is the number of social houses has dropped.”
Photo: Paul Costigan

“Honesty and respect for residents from within this ACT government remains wishful thinking. Is this what they call being progressive?” asks “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN

DEVELOPER lobbyists and their government friends do a great job of getting the media to promote false narratives about the motivations of residents who care for their suburbs. 

Paul Costigan.

This flow of misleading articles comes about because journalists do not question the disingenuous official spin that blames housing shortages on residents.

The unsavoury truths the property industry do not want discussed are tax changes that were introduced decades ago and have been a success in delivering increased profits to developers. The most notorious problems are how capital gains tax was changed to suit developers and how negative gearing has contributed to making home ownership less accessible. 

Governments, including the ACT’s coalition government, have been selling off social housing for more than a decade. They have tried to distract from the devastating effects of their actions by talking up their housing-renewal programs. The reality is the number of social houses has dropped. 

The spin about numbers built avoids the reality of the net deficit of social housing and that so much of the profits from social housing sales was directed to other programs.

A serious aspect of housing has been identified by journalists who actually research and produce evidence. This was done recently by Peter Martin when he identified that the number of houses that could be built in any year has not shifted that much. Regardless of additional government programs, the housing industry has only been able to produce more or less the same limited annual supply.

The picture on housing gets more complicated when you add in the statistics that a high number of residences are left vacant for investment reasons with some placed on the short-term (eg Airbnb) rental markets for quick profits. Another extraordinary figure was the thousands of development applications that were approved but were paused – meaning construction was not commenced.

Into the quagmire of diversionary tactics marched the mindless “Missing Middle” campaigners and their gullible followers. Taking up the developers’ false narratives, these groups argue that residents are hindering the building of the missing middle, and therefore more-affordable housing, through their opposition to the deregulation of planning codes for residential areas. 

This misleading missing middle argument is another developer-driven diversionary attempt to avoid the truth that so-called missing middle programs actually increase inequity, do not deliver affordable housing and deflects discussion away from the tax systems that favour investors over those seeking to have a roof over their heads.

More insulting are journalists who continue the propaganda that the reason for the decline in social housing is that residents oppose social housing in their suburbs. Those journalists need to read the community’s submissions that support and encourage quality social housing provided that it is built well to 21st century standards and according to planning rules.

Few journalists and politicians take the time to engage with residents to ascertain that their opposition to development is about what they see has not been happening. 

Many redevelopments are not based on good design and do not address key issues including climate, biodiversity, transport needs and the preservation of suburban character. Many innovations in housing types and proposals to increase density would be possible with residents’ support if contemporary issues were addressed – and the rules followed. 

The relationships governments have with developers no longer encourage objectivity. Planning and developer decisions are made within a culture with the emphasis on the relationships with lobbyists and far less on how decisions affect present and future residents.

When an inner-southside resident read the 400 submissions, it was identified that few submissions supported what was being proposed. Despite this, the ACT planning minister still boasted about the support for his proposals to junk real planning and for his missing-middle myth. The media reported his false narratives as facts. 

Meanwhile, the ACT government and its supporters continue to gaslight residents as their normal response to issues raised. The Nimby name-calling and other nastiness towards residents continues with ACT Greenslabor looking the other way.

The Greenslabor politicians act as if they endorse the community representatives being the subject of attacks and having to defend themselves against online trolling by government supporters. Honesty and respect for residents from within this ACT government remains wishful thinking. Is this what they call being progressive?

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Paul Costigan

Paul Costigan

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3 Responses to The disingenuous spin that’s never questioned

Lt.Fred says: 28 June 2023 at 12:24 pm

The guts of your argument is this: “missing middle programs actually increase inequity, do not deliver affordable housing and deflects discussion away from the tax systems that favour investors over those seeking to have a roof over their heads.”

The reason there is no actual evidence or argument presented for this bare claim is that it’s just not true. Permitting more housing permits more housing, which leads to more housing. This improves equity, affordability, amenity, etc. It does not prevent reform to negative gearing and so on.

Reply
Wild Weston says: 28 June 2023 at 1:26 pm

Costigan describes the notion that the residents of established suburbs oppose social housing as “propaganda”.

Does he expect us to forget that he used this very column to rail against the YWCA housing vulnerable older women in Ainslie?

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