Government over-reach on housing – let Council do it properly

By Councillor Charles Jago

We all want to see new housing measures that will put a roof over people’s heads, expanding the quantity of quality housing accessible to everybody.

At the council meeting on Tuesday night (20/2/2024), councillors unanimously supported my motion supporting the aims of the NSW government’s package of housing changes, but calling on major improvements to implementation of the package. We are offering to work with the government to ensure new housing is done right, building on successful work that is already under way in Canada Bay.

Unfortunately, the NSW government’s recent package of “reforms” would – as currently written:

  • wipe out protection for around 80% of heritage properties across most of Canada Bay!
  • undermine Council’s affordable housing program. Instead of 4% or 5% of housing in new developments being dedicated to Council for affordable housing in perpetuity, it would be perhaps 2% for only 15 years – then given back to the developer!
  • undermine council’s tree targets with inadequate “deep soil” requirements to ensure enough trees on new residential apartment developments, making it impossible to meet our tree canopy growth target of 25% by 2040.
  • lead to very poor developments due to an absence of proper rules for minimum frontage and minimum plot size for new apartment blocks. Without these rules (which enable effective consolidation of land parcels for apartments – normally standard across Canada Bay) we would likely see ridiculous outcomes such as single family homes next to six or eight storey buildings.
  • include a chaotic range of bonuses that would create unexpected housing scale outcomes in specific locations, some of it entirely disproportionate.
  • potentially cover a huge area across Canada Bay, substantially and unpredictably changing the character of many suburbs.
  • over-ride a substantial amount work both completed and still under way by Council staff including community consultation.
  • not address our critical infrastructure requirements, including finance for infrastructure implemented by council
  • and more.

I called upon the state government to step away from their dictatorial “one size fits all” agenda with its destructive provisions, and allow council to get on with implementing an effective program to increase quality housing in Canada Bay. Specifically, my motion (passed unanimously) called on council to offer to negotiate new housing targets with the government to properly put their aims into practice with the most effective approaches for our LGA.

These issues are shown in the documents below, including government documents and council meeting docs as well as reports by council staff in response to the government plans. See the detail in the following documents:

Government documents City of Canada Bay (CCB) documents
  Canada Bay Council meeting 20 February 2024, agenda item 9.3: “State Planning Reforms”
Transport Oriented Development program

CCB submission to DPIH re TOD program, 29 January 2024
CCB submission to NSW Inquiry into the development of the Transport Oriented Program, March 2024

Explanation of Intended Effect (EIE) –
Changes to create low and mid-rise housing
CCB submission February 2024 on
EIE – Changes to create low and mid-rise housing
  CCB submission – Social and affordable housing reforms, 12 October 2023

Revised motion as passed unanimously at Canada Bay Council meeting 20 February 2024, agenda item 9.3

More broadly, I have doubts about whether the government’s approach will work. In essence, the government wants to flood the market with new housing in order to lower the cost of housing. The problem is that they are relying on private developers to build new housing and sell it – companies who plan their sales campaigns very carefully to get premium price sales. They are not compelled to build new housing on the government’s schedule – in fact that seems rather unlikely. In other words, the current Labor government is doubling down on a similar strategy to the former coalition government, whose same policies brought us to the current situation.

To solve the current housing crisis, NSW and Australia would do well to look at different housing policies being pursued elsewhere in the world: places like Austria or Denmark have far more effective policies. These approaches make higher use of public and social housing. Alternatively, one could look to Australian post-war housing policies that invested in public housing and were successful in their day, with some similarities to currently successful European housing programs.