BILL: Differential rates on vacant residential land

Today Mark outlined the Greens support for a Bill that removes a disincentive for people to build their own homes on vacant plots of residential land. 

Local Government (Differential Rates on Vacant Land) Amendment Bill 2018

I rise to indicate that the Greens will be supporting the Hon. John Darley's bill. But that is not to say that the remarks of the Hon. Clare Scriven are not valid concerns about the bill; it is just that we take a slightly different approach. The approach that we are taking is to look at the intent of the bill, which is to improve housing affordability, especially for young families who might be looking to buy a block of land and then build a house on it. I acknowledge that there are concerns about applying the same standard to speculative investors as to home owners, but it seems to us that this is something that, if the bill passes this house, can be dealt with. It can be dealt with between the houses, and we can have a look at whether any further finetuning of the bill might be necessary.

The starting point for the Greens is that we want to do what we can to address housing affordability. Young families often see it is very unfair, as they scrape together the money in stages. They first of all manage to get enough together to buy the block of land; they are not speculators—they have every intention of building on that land, though it might take them a few years to scrape the money together to build their house—and it seems that they are being unduly punished with these differential rates. I fully accept, though, that there are others who could take advantage of that for speculative purposes as well, but as I say I think we can fix that up between the houses.

We have had the calculator out, Mr President, and we have tried to have a look at what this bill might mean in various council scenarios. Each council sets its rates differently, but one thing that we have noticed is that many councils have what you might call a fixed element, expressed in dollar terms, and then there is a variable component as well. When we applied the formula in the bill, what we found was that there was in most cases many hundreds of dollars of savings by ensuring that the increased rate did not apply in those three years. So over a three-year period a young couple, for example, might save a thousand or so dollars, and that is going to be important to them when they are saving for their new house.

I suspect that Mr Darley will not have the numbers today, but I do want to put on the record the Greens' congratulation of his efforts to put this on the agenda. It is well intentioned in terms of housing affordability. The Greens think that any unintended consequences can be remedied between the houses, so we are happy to be supporting the bill at this stage.