Do No Harm

As the newly elected Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian stamped housing affordability as her highest priority and identified increased housing supply as the key. Since then, the government has acted on several fronts, including $720 million announced in last month’s budget to tackle housing affordability over the next four years.

These government programs, worthwhile, could take years to wash through the system and start putting downward pressure on housing prices. In the meantime, political leaders need to settle on real solutions that will unlock opportunities now to improve access to housing.

That demands a ‘no-harm’ approach to any policy response where housing supply could be impacted. It also means sticking with long established principles of sustainable development which require the integration of economic, social, and environmental considerations.

And yet a raft of new regulations currently being considered by the Minister for Environment will move NSW Government policy in exactly the opposite direction. Industry research and modelling proves these policy settings will add to the expense of development finance and increase the cost of housing.

Under the proposed reforms, a “Mum and Dad” investor applying for a small subdivision and development on 0.5 hectares, at Fletcher, would be required to make an indicative up-front payment of $69,000 to the government’s newly established Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund.

For most, the new layers of red tape and charges will be the tipping point at which all feasibility gets trashed. Land becomes sterilised. Supply is constrained. The housing affordability crisis deepens.

These unintended consequences happen where policy decisions are made without understanding the true state, dynamics, and drivers of housing markets.

That’s why the first recommendation of industry is to pause the reform timeline and go back to first principles.

Extending the consultation period is the only hope of a well understood and accepted outcome for biodiversity conservation in NSW.