Housing, Property Politics and Planning in Australia

Australia’s efforts and policy debates around housing supply, affordability and the impacts of planning regulation, provide an interesting ‘real world’ example of the more theoretical debates about relationships between planning and the housing market, introduced in the first section of this book. Australia’s housing story is also inherently political, with the politics of home ownership and housing-related wealth jostling against the powerful interests of land developers, arguably to the detriment of lower-income renters. A climate of community hostility to socially mixed developments and developer opposition to affordable housing requirements have frustrated attempts to secure affordable housing through the planning process, whilst the national policy debate has focussed on perceived regulatory barriers to housing supply.

The following sections of this chapter chart this evolving policy and political context for urban planning and housing provision in Australia. The focus is on a shifting dialectic between government attempts to regulate urban development whilst supporting the private housing market. Four key policy episodes are highlighted in the first section of the chapter (summarised in Table 9.1). These are early settlement and land and © The Author(s) 2017

N. Gurran, G. Bramley, Urban Planning and the Housing Market, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-46403-3_9

Table 9.1 Timeline of key episodes in the evolution of Australia's housing and urban planning systems

Period

Policy episodes

Early colonisation

  • 1788-1830s
  • 1840s

Colonial order, property speculation and city building

First town plans, including minimum lot sizes and street widths (but often ignored)

Building societies introduced—finance for home ownership

1850s

Rail lines in Melbourne, Sydney, enabled suburbanisation, rapid urbanisation and speculative land/housing development

1880s

Public health and sanitation laws to introduce building standards

1890s

Housing market crash

Federation-late

  • 1970s
  • 1912-1915

Urban reform and an absolute duty to interfere

Concerns about slum housing, interest in modern town planning movement

First public housing estate (Dacey Gardens, NSW)

1930s-

State housing authorities established, low-cost rental housing; some low-cost home loans

1945

Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (CSHA)— Commonwealth loans to the states for public housing, the requirement for states to undertake slum clearance and introduce modern town planning laws

1950s-

Increasing emphasis on home ownership, public housing tenants can purchase dwellings Growing reliance on 'self-build'—owner builders constructing or commissioning their own home directly

1972-

Commonwealth urban and regional development initiatives, particularly infrastructure for growth Commonwealth Land Commission Programme

1978-

Committee of Inquiry into Housing Costs—finds that planning system is creating regulatory barriers to housing development

Increased targeting of public housing

1980s/1990s

Rise of environmentalism, urban consolidation agenda, era of neoliberal reform

1980s

Deregulation of home finance, followed by rapid interest rate increases

Fiscal crisis in government, reduced spending on urban infrastructure

1985-87

Capital gains tax (1985), but not to family home Negative gearing (full tax deductability of expenses from investment properties, against whole income) confirmed Growing environmental agenda

(continued)

Table 9.1 (continued)

Period

Policy episodes

Early 1990s

Rise of urban consolidation, increasing inner city gentrification

Residualisation of public housing, reduced (real) funding for new social housing supply

1996-

Falling interest rates

Rising house prices (national housing boom 1996-2004) 50 % Capital Gains Tax discount (investment housing)

2000s-

Concern over housing affordability and new supply

2000

First Home Owner Grant (to offset effects of newly introduced Goods and Services Tax)

2007

National Housing Supply Council (NHSC) established Housing Affordability Fund (2007-2012)

2008

National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) 2008-2014

2009

National Affordable Housing Agreement 2009 (replaced the CSHA)

Social Housing Initiative (Economic stimulus in response to GFC) (2009-2012)

Source: The authors

housing speculation; the post-Federation era of government intervention in housing provision; the twin movements of environmentalism and neoliberalism from the 1980s onwards; and, the re-emergence of national level concern over housing affordability from around the turn of the new millennium. The second section of this chapter outlines contemporary approaches to housing and urban policy, in part, through various inclusionary planning experiments. Potential lessons from the Australian experience in the light of the overarching housing challenges identified in Chap. 2 are highlighted in conclusion. This historically informed analysis suggests that contemporary approaches to urban planning and the housing market in Australia do reflect a certain path dependency in responding to the wider challenges to housing (rising inequality, demographic and environmental change and the structure of urban life) as discussed throughout this book.

 
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