Western Australia’s reforms to strata title legislation have hit a roadblock, according to the Property Council, which is calling on the WA state government to push forward in the interest of affordability and sustainability.

“After more than five years of industry and community consultation, we are witnessing more inaction on critical Strata Titles reform which is needed to promote housing affordability, sustainability and liveability,” Property Council WA executive director Lino Iacomella said.

“This is a major let-down for the industry but more importantly for communities that are crying out for urban development and regeneration to deliver excellent amenities and public space.”

The comments came after WA lands minister Terry Redman told media the reforms were unlikely to be introduced into parliament before the end of the year. They were initially expected to be introduced in the second half of 2016.

“These reforms are a large and complex body of work and the state government is doing a thorough job making sure the legislation meets the needs of the property industry and the community,” Mr Redman told the West Australian this week.

A key change in the legislation would allow for strata schemes to be terminated with just 75 per cent of owners’ permission, a move likely to encourage infill development and help to reduce Perth’s urban sprawl problem, as old low-density strata apartments make way for new high-density stock.

However the move, which is also being rolled out in other states, has drawn criticism from community groups concerned about the welfare of vulnerable residents who could be forced out of their homes, including the elderly.

In NSW, the termination issue has caused consternation among homeowners worried they could be turfed out by investor-owners looking to make a quick buck.

However, the state government there has given the Land and Environment Court power to ensure all scheme terminations are “just and equitable”, according to fair trading minister Victor Dominello.

NSW Labor’s regulation and innovation spokeswoman Yasmin Catley begged to differ, however, saying there was “no overriding public interest test”.

“It favours property developers over the long-established rights of ordinary homeowners,” she said.

In WA, all applications for termination must similarly undergo a review by the State Administrative Tribunal to assess “procedure and fairness to all owners”.

The termination rules aren’t the only changes being put forward in WA, though, with other reforms including:

  • the introduction of two new types of strata title – Community Title and Leasehold strata schemes over freehold land – which would encourage larger scale precinct-style housing development
  • more flexibility for staged strata development
  • information given to buyers before they sign a strata purchase contract to be improved and simplified
  • faster resolution of strata disputes
  • improvement of regulations of strata managers by imposing key duties and obligations they must perform

Mr Iacomella said WA was now 20 years behind the rest of the country on strata legislation.

“This is unacceptable and we expect the government to fast track the process to bring the Strata Titles Act into the 21st century,” he said.

“Reforms, like the introduction of Community Titles, are essential to building strong communities and keeping WA growing.”

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