Why does the ACT need a housing strategy?
Housing fulfills the basic human need for shelter and performs a social function by contributing to the wellness of a household.
The strategy provides a framework for government and the community to address the multiple factors that influence the supply and demand of housing. The strategy considers the levers that can be used to influence the delivery of housing, outlines actions that will provide an equitable approach to housing for all Canberrans now and in the future, and highlights matters for continued monitoring.
The 2007 Affordable Housing Action Plan set the foundation for a long-term commitment to providing housing for all households at all income levels. For the past 11 years the ACT Government has been investing in public housing and assistance for people experiencing homelessness, supporting the community housing sector to grow, reforming planning and taxation laws, accelerating land release and providing dedicated affordable home purchase products. The Government began reducing conveyance duty rates (stamp duty) in 2012-13 and abolished it for eligible first home buyers from July 2019, making the purchase of a house more achievable and affordable for all Canberrans.
The city now faces a new set of challenges. Given the ACT's economic prosperity and liveability, the city is growing towards 500,000 residents by 2030, putting pressure on land availability, infrastructure and public open space. With this growth projection, an estimated 3000 new homes will be required each year, even as the city's urban footprint becomes more constrained.
In addition, high wages and low unemployment have put pressure on the existing housing stock. This has crowded low income households out of the private housing market and seen the demand for social housing and homelessness support increase. Affordability is an important issue and focus of this strategy.
The ACT Government is addressing these challenges by releasing more land to improve affordability and add to the housing choices on offer for Canberrans. By building connected and sustainable communities both in new suburban areas and urban renewal precincts we are responding to our city's changing needs while enhancing Canberra's liveability and strengthening social inclusion.
In any jurisdiction, particularly a small one like Canberra, the community's housing experience is subject to factors beyond state or territory government control, such as:
- federal tax and population growth
- income trends
- borrowing and lending practices
- investment from elsewhere.
The ACT continues to be the most affordable jurisdiction in which to buy a home, and the second most affordable state to rent behind Western Australia. However, this can be attributed to the ACT's higher than average wages, rather than the actual costs of homes. What is affordable for people on the ACT's average weekly wage of $1,812 (against the national average of $1,585) is not affordable for those on lower incomes. Of the 60,000 households in the ACT that sit within the lowest 40% of incomes, almost 8000 households in the private rental market pay more than 30% of their income on rent and are at an increased risk of homelessness.
People's needs are diverse and there are many pathways into safe, secure and affordable housing. Many issues need to be addressed to find lasting solutions to the problem of affordable housing, ranging from tax settings, planning and land release, design, tenancy laws, social and public housing, and homelessness support services.
Under the new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement signed by the Chief Minister on 12 June 2018 and in effect on 1 July 2018, the ACT will receive around $131 million in Australian Government funding over five years.
This provides much needed certainty for the ACT's social housing and homelessness sectors. This strategy also fulfils a requirement under this agreement to provide a publicly available housing and homelessness strategy.
This new strategy integrates work across government and aligns with other policy initiatives and projects including the Public Housing Asset Management Plan, Housing Choices project, Planning Strategy refresh, the Transport Strategy and the ACT Climate Change Strategy.
In developing the strategy, early consultation with organisations and individuals confirmed the complex, multi-faceted nature of the ACT housing market.
- establishes an overarching housing vision and sets the course for ACT housing and homelessness policy over the next 10 years
- responds to Territory-specific housing challenges and community needs
- articulates the ACT Government's role in the housing sector
- centralises all existing housing policies, objectives and priorities into a single integrated strategy
- identifies further strategic work, projects and actions that will contribute to the achievement of the vision
- delivers on the 2016 Labor election commitment and the Parliamentary Agreement for the 9th Legislative Assembly.1
The strategy is structured around the five key goals, each with a range of objectives. Actions to deliver on the objectives and goals are outlined in this document and summarised in the attached implementation plan.
The strategy will maintain a long-term policy focus but, more importantly, will remain agile and responsive through a program of regular monitoring, review and reporting of actions and outcomes. This will be done in an online digital environment as part of the government's new Homes and Housing website. This means that the strategy will be able to respond to demographic, social, environmental and economic changes over its 10-year lifespan. New actions can be added in future, once further investigation is complete, and the implementation plan will be updated to reflect new priority focus areas. This strategy will also inform government's consideration of Budget commitments and funding priorities each year.
Improving access to affordable housing especially for those on lower incomes is an important social determinant for societal well-being. This strategy recognises the central role that housing plays in the lives of individuals and the intersections between housing, health, mental health, disability, family safety and justice which require a whole of government response.
The strategy connects with other related government programs and initiatives as they relate to planning, land release, tax reform, the environment and social inclusion.
How has this new strategy been developed?
The development of the strategy has been integrated and inclusive. This first dedicated housing strategy builds on the actions and outcomes of the 2007 Affordable Housing Action Plan (the AHAP) which included elements of a housing strategy. The AHAP was the key policy platform to address housing affordability across all tenures and income ranges. It contained 97 objectives across three phases with a particular focus on:
- improving the supply of affordable land and housing
- improving affordable rental supply
- the investment into housing affordability
- targeted measures to address homelessness and aged persons housing
- taxation reforms.
Internal and external reviews of the AHAP's three phases were completed in 2016 to assess its effectiveness and to inform a new direction for housing policy. Of particular interest was the AHAP's effectiveness in:
- improved affordability for those on the lowest 40% of incomes in the ACT
- whether the objectives and actions of the AHAP provided an effective ongoing benefit.
The review revealed that while the plan was generally effective across the whole housing continuum and in consideration of the time that had passed, there were areas that would benefit from new policy reforms, in particular those targeted at the ACT's lowest 40% of income households. For households not in the lowest 40%, a range of housing options is available in the private market. Government intervention is focused on segments of the housing market where there are market gaps or failures.
A workshop with key community sector organisations and service providers in 2016 identified barriers and challenges of housing affordability in our community. In May 2017, the Minister's Affordable Housing Consultative Group was established to provide an independent, external perspective of the challenges of housing affordability in the ACT, develop new ideas to respond to the challenges, and guide the progress of a new housing strategy.
The government released the discussion paper, Towards a New Housing Strategy: an ACT Community Conversation, in July 2017 and continued formal consultation with the public until September 2017. The engagement included focus groups and workshops with targeted stakeholder groups, online surveys and submissions, social media and a series of community drop in sessions.
Participants were introduced to the goals of reducing homelessness, strengthening social housing, increasing affordable rental housing and increasing affordable home purchase opportunities. They were asked to consider three key questions:
- What is working well?
- What do you think is not working?
- What could be done to improve the situation?
Participants were encouraged to be brave and innovative in their thinking, challenge the status quo and consider how government, industry and community could work together and do things differently.
More than 125 organisations participated in 26 workshops, 166 people completed online surveys and 129 people attended six community drop-in sessions. Eighty submissions were received on the discussion paper.
Details of the engagement were presented and explored further at the Housing and Homelessness Summit on 17 October 2017. The summit brought together a wide range of Canberra's industry, community and government representatives, as well as people with lived experience of homelessness. Almost 200 industry representatives and stakeholders attended.
A report on the community engagement, What We Heard - Developing a New Housing Strategy for the ACT, was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly and published online on 20 March 2018. The report provided the platform for developing the new strategy's vision, goals and objectives. All the ideas received through public consultation, the housing summit and the Affordable Housing Consultative Group were grouped together into similar ideas and themes, resulting in approximately 110 suggestions for policy initiatives and programs. The strategy responds to 90 of these by recommending their adoption or further consideration (or continuation through existing initiatives). The new strategy also responds to Australian Government policy and programs, and ACT Government policies, plans and strategies.
While the initial consultations focused on homelessness, social and affordable housing, the different ideas and contributions demonstrated the complex, multi-faceted nature of the ACT housing market. They also highlighted the need for the new strategy to look more broadly and integrate other related current and proposed policy and programs that relate to planning reforms, housing choice, building design, land release and infrastructure, and residential tenancies.
The need to bring similar ideas together and address them at a strategic level over the next 10 years means that not everyone will see their individual suggestion reflected in their own words in this document.
As noted in Figure 1, a range of factors influences housing; these factors have been considered in the development of this strategy to provide an integrated approach to delivering an equitable supply of housing into the future for all Canberrans.
- Affordable Housing Action Plan developed - The ACT Government released its Affordable Housing Action Plan, including 63 initiatives to provide more affordable housing and rental accommodation for Canberrans.
- Implementation of Phase 2 of the Affordable Housing Action Plan - Phase 2 of the Action Plan contained a further 21 initiatives designed to increase the supply of affordable housing for older Canberrans, and to address homelessness.
- Implementation of Phase 3 of the Affordable Housing Action Plan - Phase 3 of the Action Plan introduced a set of 14 new actions aimed at increasing the amount of affordable rentals, improving utilisation of land in established suburbs and expanding the mix of affordable properties for sale.
- Ongoing review and discussions of housing affordability in the ACT
- Ongoing review and implementation of the action plan.
- 9 April, 7 August, 20 November - Issue identification - ACT Government staff workshop with the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute to identify the issues impacting on housing affordability, progress so far and opportunities for improvement.
- 27 June - Local conversations with service providers - Workshop with key community sector organisations in the ACT to identify the barriers and challenges of housing affordability in our community.
- May - establishment of the Affordable Housing Consultative Group - The Affordable Housing Consultative Group was established to provide an independent, external perspective of the challenges of housing affordability in the ACT, and assist to develop new ideas and in creating a housing strategy.
- Housing and homelessness summit “Our Canberra Our Home”
- The ACT Government, with PwC Canberra, hosted a 200 person strong collaboration of ideas and information sharing
- Launch of affordable home purchase initiative
- Dedicated affordable homes are made available to people registered on the affordable home purchase database at capped prices.
- November - Analysis of feedback, ideas and suggestions from the community engagement program.
- February - release of the engagement report: “What we heard – developing a new housing strategy for the ACT”
The report includes considerations of the ideas received during the community engagement program and summit
- April - demonstration housing stage 1 expression of interest opens
- May - new housing targets for public, community and affordable housing for 2017-18
Targets identify land that will be made available for the delivery of public, community and affordable housing from the 2017-18 ACT land release program
- August - $1 million innovation fund successful round 1 applicants announced
The first round includes projects for affordable rental real estate management and two design led co-housing projects
- September - new housing targets for public, community and affordable housing for 2018-19
Targets identify land that will be made available for the delivery of public, community and affordable housing from the 2018-19 act land release program
- October - launch of the act housing strategy
- Discussion Paper: Toward a New Housing Strategy - An ACT Community Conversation
- Engagement Report: What We Heard - Developing a New Housing Strategy for the ACT
1. The Parliamentary Agreement for the 9th Legislative Assembly commits to the development of an ACT Housing Strategy to deliver more affordable housing options. | Return to content.