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Why we need industry collaboration on affordable housing


TBB Principal

Jarrod Ross

02 Aug 2022

The recent release of the City of Stirling’s draft Affordable Housing policy for public advertising has sparked an interesting debate within the development industry.

The City’s policy seeks to ‘mandate’ (albeit through a discretionary policy) the provision of affordable housing for developments which exceed 20 dwellings within the infill growth areas of Stirling City Centre and Herdsman Glendalough. Whilst several local governments are watching on with interest, many in the development industry are questioning whether the policy has been properly considered, and whether affordable housing provision is the role of local government.

Affordability is perhaps the biggest challenge in the Australian housing industry, and Western Australia is by no means immune to this challenge. In identifying measures to improve affordability, however, we as an industry need to keep front of mind that this is a highly complex and multi-faceted issue, and solutions need to be cognisant of the role of each stakeholder and the potential negative implications which may result.

The City’s attempted intervention is well intentioned, but ultimately needs further work to consider the impact on development feasibility within important infill growth areas, and the potential to negatively impact growth and yield within these areas. Stirling City Centre and Herdsman Glendalough have both identified and planned to accommodate significant urban infill for more than a decade, and the industry has responded by investing in these areas and awaiting the finalisation of planning frameworks to hit the ground. After this decade of investment, the application of ‘mandatory’ requirements which represent a significant impost upon development potential will dramatically undermine this investment, and may ultimately result in reduced dwelling yields which will be counter to achieving the stated objectives.

The local government sector certainly has a role to play in improving housing affordability, most notably through the review of strategic and statutory planning frameworks to facilitate intensification in the right locations, improving the efficiency of the assessment and approval processes to expedite development, and working to counter nimbyism and lead the way in delivering on high quality infill development. Any statutory or policy intervention which seeks to specifically deliver ‘affordable dwellings’ needs to be carefully workshopped with the broader industry, and needs to be incentive based to ensure that it is sufficiently flexible and can respond to market variability.

Too often these types of initiatives are criticised by the industry without the provision of constructive feedback. Interested stakeholders need to take the time and make a submission, as industry collaboration is essential to ensuring solutions to issues like housing affordability are well considered and effective.

For more information on the draft policy please see the City of Stirling website.

TBB has also prepared a submission on the draft policy which can be found here. Please contact Jarrod Ross or Trent Will to  discuss further.