Make housing more affordable

Despite a 300% increase in housing supply over the past 10 years, Sydney requires an additional 100,000 dwellings now and at least 725,000 new homes to accommodate 1.7 million people by 2036. That is, 825,000 homes to be delivered in 20 years, or 41,250 annually. Greater Sydney has never achieved this level of dwelling completions.

With a median house price of $1,151,565 (Domain: March Quarter 2017), Sydney is currently ranked the second least affordable city in the world (2017 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey). 

‘Until the supply response catches up to demand, higher house prices are the inevitable outcome’. (The NSW Parliamentary Research Service ‘Demand, deposits, debt: Housing affordability in Sydney’(NSWPRS) March 2017).

There is no single and easy solution. Sydney’s housing supply chain is a dynamic and complex system that is currently working to capacity. It requires greater productivity and efficiency to deliver the expected supply. The issue of affordability is also complex with many influencing factors including, income, interest rates, unemployment, population and demographics, foreign investors as well as housing being used as an investment.

There are several factors limiting supply, these include:

  • Time lag in project start and completion for land and housing (around 7-10 years for land and house packages to reach the Sydney market);
  • Considerable delays in the planning rezoning and approval process;
  • Timing and delivery of the facilitating infrastructure; 
  • Lack of housing diversity;
  • Uncertainty around the statutory and strategic planning processes;
  • Cost of development, including taxes, fees, charges and infrastructure cost; and
  • Difficulty in amalgamating fragmented sites, including delays due to key land owners overpriced sales expectations effectively freezing land.

Supply must also meet the needs of an evolving and increasingly segmented household demand profile. Smaller households, an aging population, increasingly high costs of entry for first home buyers, as well as significant affordability pressures for many in the private rental sector necessitate a broad range of actions. These actions require the NSW Government to lead and work with industry to find innovative solutions suitable to bridge the gap between those who have accessed the housing market and those that have not.

The UDIA suggests a two-fold approach to make Sydney’s housing more affordable.

Firstly, fix the housing supply chain through:

  • Better coordination to deliver housing and its associated infrastructure in a timely and efficient manner;
  • The delivery of more housing diversity; and
  • More certainty, less significant delays and a more predictable regulatory framework.

The second is for NSW Government to:

  • Form a Housing Delivery Unit within the Department of Premier and Cabinet and establish policy and oversee the supply and delivery of housing;
  • Establish an Urban Development Program for the timely coordination and release of housing and its supportive infrastructure, • Work with industry and Federal and Local Governments to establish an Affordable Housing Program.

The industry can produce a variety of housing products that are affordable and meet the needs of the market, both in terms of rental and home ownership. The Premier has placed housing affordability at the top of the NSW Government’s agenda. Government must now lead with establishing the necessary regulatory structure, work with industry on detail and deliver necessary policy and planning reform. To achieve this, the NSW Government must immediately act to:

1. Establish a Housing Delivery Unit (HDU) led by the Department of Premier and Cabinet that will manage the Urban Development Program and an Affordable Housing Program.

2. Establish an Urban Development Program (UDP) to identify, coordinate and prioritise housing supply and the necessary funding for supporting infrastructure.

3. Establish an Affordable Housing Program (AHP) to undertake the necessary policy, program and planning reform to addresses affordable housing needs at scale now and build a portfolio of publicly owned housing assets for the next generation.

4. Amend the standard LEP instrument and/or other SEPP’s to deliver more housing diversity.

5. Improve supply efficiency by reducing planning uncertainty and time delays around integrated developments, rezonings, development applications and large scale residential developments. Extend the ePlanning Program to track all applications through the development process, against mandated statutory timeframes and referral to other agencies.

6. Place a moratorium on any new charges or taxes, planning gains, value capture and Inclusionary Zoning until the real cost of these charges and the impact they may have on the cost of housing is better understood.

7. Establish a government-led working group with industry to deliver innovative housing that is suitable for first home buyers, lone person households, with potential for lifecycle adaptability, including ‘ageing in place’.