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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 March 2017) . . Page.. 835 ..

the catalyst for the renewal and expansion of public housing and an acceleration in the provision of affordable rental properties within the community housing sector. Our strategy has ensured that at least 20 per cent of new estate developments are earmarked for affordable housing.

These efforts have resulted in the construction and sale of 2,650 properties for affordable home purchase and another 2,025 homes under the government’s nation-leading land rent scheme. We have also been progressively phasing out stamp duty and providing major stamp duty concessions for first homebuyers and seniors.

Of course this issue that we are discussing today is not new and it is not just a local issue. I have mentioned in my previous comments on housing affordability that we need both levels of government pulling together in the same direction on what is a national issue. Last year the ACT government made a submission to the commonwealth affordable housing working group, and we encouraged them to engage further with options around key policy levers such as negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts. Following that, the commonwealth formed a task force, and then Minister Scott Morrison went to England. We are still encouraging the federal government to look at these issues around negative gearing and capital gains tax.

The ACT government, as reflected in both the parliamentary agreement for the Ninth Legislative Assembly and in recent election commitments, has committed to do more. A new housing strategy will build on the conversations that I started with the community in 2016. It will be a multi-layered approach with a large range of responses and initiatives and will be informed by key stakeholders and subject matter experts with experience in the many complex policy issues.

Unlocking underutilised land and properties has the potential to improve housing affordability, but it is important to note that any consideration of a tax on vacant properties or changes to land tax must be well informed as there are a number of complexities in accurately measuring the number of relevant properties. At any point in time there can be many thousands of dwellings sitting vacant within the normal real estate cycle. Dwellings can also be caught up in prolonged and often complex demolition or renovation processes.

The Victorian government’s announcement of a vacancy tax for properties that are vacant for six months or more is an appropriate response in a market that features aggressive, speculative investors who are using their vacant properties as long-term wealth stores rather than making them available to potential renters. We need to make sure that in considering a similar policy in Canberra we have a very close look at what its market impact will be.

I have discussed this option with numerous people in our local sector, including through consultations I held last year. It is certainly worth undertaking more detailed research to understand the potential for any underutilised homes to contribute to improving overall housing affordability and to inform debate ahead of the housing and homelessness summit that I will be holding later this year.

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