FEDERAL Housing and Homelessness Minister Brendan O'Connor welcomed the release of a new report which recommends ways to enhance housing supply and affordability.
The Housing Supply and Affordability Reform (HSAR) report, released at the end of August by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), recommends measures for all levels of government to ensure more efficient use of existing land and housing stock and reduce unnecessary costs and charges for developers and home buyers.
Mr O'Connor said the Australian Government understands that housing affordability is a significant issue for many Australians, especially those on low and moderate incomes, adding that adequate housing supply is a central response.
According to the Minister, the HSAR report highlights key areas of reform, including:
- Improving the efficiency of development assessment and rezoning processes;
- Increasing transparency around infrastructure charges for developers and home buyers;
- Ensuring that government land holdings are being put to the highest value use;
- Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government interventions to ensure the right outcomes; and
- Ensuring that the housing market is able to provide the types of homes that Australians actually demand.
It recommends that the States and Territories work towards greater use of code-based frameworks for assessing residential development applications and consider the costs and benefits of local councils' regulatory proposals before they are allowed to exceed state planning requirements.
It further recommends that they agree to principles for infrastructure charges and that they trial a new set of principles to identify government land that could be used for housing.
Mr O'Connor said he is encouraged by the fact that a number of the States and Territories have already started to implement the recommendations made in the HSAR report and said the Australian Government is also keen to play its part, with a pilot being conducted of the principles for assessing under-utilised government land as part of the Commonwealth's 2012 land audit.
"In addition, we will continue to work with State and Territory governments to ensure that the objectives, roles and responsibilities of each level of government are clearly defined and the results and effectiveness of the interventions made by each level of government are as transparent as possible," the Minister said.
The report makes a number of recommendations, covering areas such as planning and zoning, infrastructure charges, titling arrangements, underutilised government land and Commonwealth housing programs.
The recommendations include:
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree that:
- Jurisdictions will continue to work to improve the efficiency of (including the time frames involved in) referrals, development assessment and rezoning processes;
- States and Territories will continue to work towards greater use of code-based frameworks for assessing residential development applications as appropriate; and
- States and Territories will maintain or establish (as applicable) an internal process to ensure state level consideration of the costs and benefits before local councils introduce planning and development requirements that are in addition to or exceed state planning and development requirements. Any proposed changes to existing arrangements in a State or Territory would be subject to the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) requirements applying in that jurisdiction.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree to the HSAR Working Party's four principles (covering efficiency, transparency and accountability, predictability, and equity) on infrastructure charges and to note the associated best practice guidelines.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree that jurisdictions in which evidence suggests that strata titling arrangements are currently significantly impeding redevelopment will consider policy reforms (this may include modifying the requirement that there be unanimous agreement to proposed changes to strata schemes) to ensure urban renewal opportunities are not negatively impacted by strata titling schemes, having regard to the physical and economic life of dwellings. Any proposed changes to existing arrangements in a State or Territory would be subject to the RIS requirements applying in that jurisdiction.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree that States and Territories will continue to share information about how their target regimes, particularly dynamic land targets, are currently being applied in relation to housing supply and land release.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree to the HSAR Working Party's principles for assessing land holdings to identify government land available for housing and other public needs, and that those jurisdictions that determine that they are not already in effect applying these principles will trial their use with discretion to take other factors into consideration in response to local conditions.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree that as jurisdictions consider the future of the FHOS [First Home Owners Scheme], they take account of the HSAR Working Party's analysis together with other relevant assessments.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree that the Commonwealth could consider reforming its own housing programs to improve their efficiency and effectiveness as a part of a broader housing reform strategy that is informed by more clearly defined government objectives and the roles and responsibilities of each tier of government.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree that governments' roles in supporting diversity in lot size and dwelling mix should focus on ensuring planning policy settings do not constrain the operation of the housing market, noting that targeted interventions may sometimes be required to support equity outcomes and address market failures, such as supporting and promoting innovative housing design options.
- HSAR Working Party recommends that COAG agree that the National e DA Steering Committee should transition into the National ePlanning Steering Committee and report to COAG – through the relevant COAG sub group – on a National ePlanning Investment Plan by mid-2012.