Rob Stokes

What a week!

Meetings, big conferences in Melbourne and Sydney, strategy launches, housing events and the sense of urgency speeding up. Thankfully.

Then there’s our own new event, the slightly experimental TFE Speakeasy on Monday afternoon at 4 pm about what’s behind the recent GRESB results (that feel a bit like the Melbourne Cup for property). Get tickets here to hear the story behind the headlines. Members will be sent a link to log on free of charge ahead of the event.  

We say the Speakeasy is only “slightly” experimental because so many people tell us how frustrated they are with the sanitised version of the industry. “No more big picture – we need details, concrete examples,” said one well placed source, among several spouting the same line of thinking.

It makes sense when James Hansen, dubbed the world’s top climate scientist by many people and including, this week, The New York Times, says our ambitions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius were “deader than a doornail,” and that the goal to limit warming to less than two degrees Celsius is on its deathbed.

The planet burns but the Queensland government grants not exploration licences but $21 million in grants

Which is alarming enough. But check out what Queensland is doing.

In the face of this reality it’s not just turning a blind eye to more fossil fuels, it’s actually encouraging them.

A media statement on Thursday launched this little rocket of cognitive dissonance: grants to find more gas! And not just pocket money: $21 million to “unlock new reserves” in that state government’s Frontier Gas Exploration Program.

Speaking of states we’re not quite sure what New South Wales is doing except whatever it it’s slow. Especially on the carbon transition. There’s still no move to ban gas – leaving it up to brave local councils to steer through this agenda item, but mighty fast on lowering the drawbridge to the property industry and relaxing zoning restrictions.

YIMBYs could change the world – and the tax system!

Speeding up approvals is a popular thing now that the Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) groups have got some traction. Which is great. We fully support the YIMBYs for their push to densify the burbs and give the urban sprawl a break, but the frustration is that they keep suggesting this will lower prices. We wish!

It would be wonderful if the rhetoric would shift ever so slightly to say, “Yes, open the gates to density – but for affordable and social housing (and don’t forget good planning)”.

But also how about reforming the tax system so that housing is incentivised for homes, not so much investments?

Like former NSW planning minister Rob Stokes told a Faith Housing Alliance event in Sydney on Wednesday it might be a good idea to put a cap on how many investment properties you can negatively gear.

It would allow a more competitive landscape for owner-occupiers. Because starting out now is beyond the hope for so many young people unless they have wealthy parents. And we can see there’s a rapidly rising mental health cost as our young get older – and find they can’t achieve security over their own homes. (On top of all the other disasters we’ve managed to load them up with.)

The tax system also allows investors to enjoy half their windfall capital gains tax free. Windfall because they benefit generally from market exuberance rather than hard toil.

The tax system also allows people to pour as much money as they can beg, borrow or steal into their private homes (and mansions) because they use it to make windfall profits – 100 per cent tax free.

Making it harder again for others, young and old, to compete for a foot on the ladder.

In what world is that okay when we have thousands sleeping on the streets? Check out your local park – you might be surprised at how many people are sleeping in their cars.

How about we apply a cut off for tax free profit at some kind of agreed threshold, for mansions at least.

YIMBYs can change the game

If the YIMBYs got behind housing tax reform, we reckon they’d win the game! They’re feisty, they’re clever and they’re young – our future!

It’s clear they worked out how bad urban sprawl is from their push for density and challenging councils up front at council meetings.

But the benefits go deeper than the good sense of making more interesting places.

As Rob Stokes pointed out in his talk, the NSW Productivity Commission says each single dwelling house in new estates costs $75,000 – sheeted home to we taxpayers.

Imagine how welcome that sum would go toward a first home deposit!

C’mon Peter Tulip (former RBA advocate who kicked off the  deregulating zoning as some kind of cure all –  and who we understand is close to the YIMBYs), you know by now that the cost of housing is a many pronged thing – but mostly about tax! (And hardly anything about zoning and faster approvals for $2 million flats.)

The Sydney YIMBYs say their ambition is to make more abundant housing and their social media says they want to end low density in Sydney. Sliding in the word “affordable” housing shouldn’t be such a big stretch!

Victorian Government Architect offers apartment plans for sale

And on the same note, it’s good to see in Victoria that the government there has come up with an interesting notion with its Future Homes project. It provides adaptable designs for three storey apartment buildings that can be bought by developers, housing organisations and others for $15,000.

Baked into the offer are fast track approvals and “really good design”.

Thanks to Associate Victorian Government Architect Stefan Preuss for the tip off on this at the Building 4.0 conference in Melbourne recently.

Join the Conversation


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. YIMBA’s are being used as a way of cutting green tape and lowering standards for building heights, quality and size as well as open space