Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Day Two: Rudd's housing plan

"The Commonwealth is sitting on $6 billion worth of land."

The Herald Sun reports:

KEVIN Rudd has announced that he would release up to $6 billion worth of Commonwealth for housing development to ease the affordability crisis if elected.

He has said Labor would require all government departments to audit all its land and "show cause" why any surplus land should not be released for housing.

He has said the Government started an audit of Commonwealth land that could be released, but that the results were not yet out.

"What we're proposing today is a fundamental revamp," he has said on a tour of a housing development in western Sydney...



A Rudd Labor Government will release surplus Commonwealth land to help ease the housing affordability crisis in Australia.

Federal Labor will expedite the release of Commonwealth land by revamping the Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy.

This is the third prong of Federal Labor’s supply side measures to ease the housing affordability crisis. It complements Federal Labor’s Housing Affordability Fund and the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

Federal Labor’s revamped Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy will require all Federal Government departments to demonstrate why surplus land should not be released for the benefit of local communities.

Under Federal Labor’s plan, surplus Commonwealth land will be evaluated against three criteria:

Whether it could increase the supply of housing without adversely effecting surrounding property prices;

Whether it could improves the amenity of local suburbs through the addition of parks, playgrounds, child care centres or other facilities; and

Whether it could create new jobs.

Federal Labor’s National Housing Supply Research Council will coordinate the process of identifying and evaluating Commonwealth land available for release.

Improving the current Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy

The Commonwealth currently owns more than $6 billion worth of land across the country – with large tracts of it lying idle as families struggle with a housing affordability crisis. (Consolidated Financial Statements for the Year Ended 30 June 2006.)

Even though the Commonwealth owns this huge bank of land the current Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy does not prioritise vital community interests when assessing potential land releases.

Under the current policy, the default option is to sell off surplus land with little or no concern for future use.

Currently the release of land is ad hoc or haphazard, often delayed by Government bureaucracies which have no incentive to make it available for communities.

The Howard Government has no plan for ensuring the regular disposal of surplus land for the benefit of positive initiatives such as new housing, better community facilities or job creation.

Under Federal Labor's plan, the clear goal will be to release surplus land to make our communities better places to live and make housing more affordable.

Federal Labor’s Plan will:

Increase the supply of housing without adversely impacting on surrounding property prices;

Provide better community facilities such as parks, playgrounds and bike tracks; and
Create new jobs through commercial and industrial development.

All levels of Government - Commonwealth, State and Local – must do more to address the housing affordability crisis. This includes working harder to ensure adequate land is released for new housing, and that communities have infrastructure such as child care centres, parks and transport links.

If we are going to grow major cities we need to invest in the infrastructure needs of our suburbs, particularly our growth corridors.

Addressing the Housing affordability Crisis

Ten years ago, the average home cost about four times the average annual wage; today it costs about seven times the annual wage.

And ten years ago the average mortgage repayment to income ratio for new homebuyers was 17.9 per cent. Today that figure is 30.8 per cent.

For Australians renting their home, new Census data shows that over half a million Australians are paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent. This means these families have a reduced capacity to save for a home deposit.

Unlike Mr Howard and Mr Costello, Labor understands that Australia is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis.

For the last 11 years, the Howard Government has been sitting on surplus land in potential development areas. Where land has been released, it has been on an ad hoc basis.

On July 9, the Howard Government claimed it would begin an audit.

Only a Rudd Labor Government will get the release of new land moving by actually revamping the policy that governs the release of Commonwealth land.

Federal Labor recognises that land release is only one of the issues in addressing Australia’s housing affordability crisis.

Ingleburn Army Camp

Mr Rudd made the announcement near a 322 hectare tract of land in South Western Sydney. The NSW Government has been frustrated by the Commonwealth Government’s delays since 2004 on the Ingleburn Army Camp for the Edmondson Park Release Area.

This new development will provide homes for some 22,000 people, as well as critical community infrastructure such as the town centre, south west rail line, an electricity sub station, schools, parks and water reservoirs.

A Rudd Labor Government will play a role in the release of land to help young Australian couples realise their dream of owning their own home.