Southbank Revealed as First Brisbane Olympic Development

A prime piece of riverfront property is to be transformed into a temporary media centre for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Brisbane lord mayor Adrian Schrinner confirmed a new precinct was being planned on a major 7ha site on Montague Road in South Brisbane, bordering West End.

The site will be purchased for the Games to house the International Broadcast Centre for the event. After the games the centre will be converted to parkland.

The venue—where the world’s media will converge during the Games—is expected to be about 60,000sq m and would be within walking distance of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Schrinner said the project, the first of many developments to be rolled out in time for the games, aligned with the intent of the draft Kurilpa Riverfront Renewal MasterPlan which the council had been working on with the state for several years.

“For a decade and more, people have talked about South Bank being extended along this part of our river and I am so pleased we’re now moving forward to make those dreams become a reality,” Schrinner said.

“World Expo ‘88 was the catalyst for the creation of South Bank and now Brisbane 2032 will facilitate the next phase of this evolution.”

The industrial land at South Brisbane, occupied by the Parmalat milk factory, was earmarked in Brisbane City Council planning in 2014 for future urban and cultural development.

The council confirmed that negotiations with the owner of the industrial business on the site was under way.

A similar proposal was mooted by the state government in 2012 and involved a mix of public and commercial use along the riverbank, including an entertainment, retail and dining precinct and parkland.

The IOC Future Host Commission report says the state government will provide the funding to remediate the industrial land.

Brisbane is already undergoing rapid changes with $20-billion worth of major development planned or under construction as part of a committed $49.5-billion transport infrastructure pipeline.

Major development projects include the $5.4-billion Cross River Rail$3.6-billion Queen’s Wharf casino and residences and the $1-billion Brisbane Airport third terminal.

The proposed $1-billion overhaul of the Gabba stadium, home to Queensland sport including cricket and AFL for 126 years, is also earmarked to be the epicentre of Brisbane’s Olympic activity. The upgrade would increase capacity to around 50,000 people.

It would also include a new pedestrian plaza, making the Games more accessible to people with disabilities and the elderly, linking the redesigned stadium to the Cross River Rail station, which is currently under construction.

As well, the Hamilton Northshore priority development area is being touted as the preferred location for the Brisbane Olympic Village.

The village will host more than 10,000 athletes and team officials for the Olympic Games and more than 5000 for the Paralympics.

State development minister Steven Miles said the Games would “do for Northshore Hamilton what Expo ‘88 did for South Bank”.

“Village construction will crystalise the area’s long-term plan and rejuvenate the existing industrial land,” Miles said.

“It will boost an already popular precinct—home to landmarks such as Portside, Eat Street Markets, and Alcyone Hotel, and some of Brisbane’s best waterfront living.”

After the Games, the village will be converted to a diverse residential offering, including aged care, retirement living, social and affordable housing, key worker, hotel, build-to-rent and market accommodation.

Northshore is also set to be the home of a proposed biomedical facility for Vaxxas to manufacture its world-leading, needle-free vaccines, which could be used for Covid-19.


Australian house prices: Grim picture for housing affordability as pandemic prices skyrocket

“Oh, my God,” said the economist. “Oh, my God,” said the researcher. “Good grief,” said the academic. “Oh, God,” said the think tank boffin.

That’s the frank reaction to the news that Australian house prices have soared as much as 29 per cent in some capital cities over the past year, while many employees have had forced stints out of work to contain a public health crisis.

Australian housing prices are booming, with six capital cities hitting record highs for the past three consecutive quarters.

After spending more time at home than ever, more of us are keen to move into a bigger place, borrowing at ultra-low interest rates and spending up big at auction.

But there’s a grim flipside: the old chestnut of housing affordability and the prospect that many young people in Australia’s largest cities might never afford their own home.

Even with low interest rates, the hurdle is the deposit gap, and that hurdle keeps getting higher.

Sydney’s median house price is now an extraordinary $1.41 million, after spiralling 24 per cent from a year ago, according to the latest Domain House Price Report for the June quarter.

A 20 per cent deposit would be – wait for it – $282,000. On the avocado toast index, that’s 12,818 cafe breakfasts, so saving this kind of cash is unlikely for most first-time buyers, and many are getting help from the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Melbourne and Canberra joined the million-dollar club (up 16.2 per cent and a whopping 29.2 per cent, respectively). Spare a thought, too, for Hobart locals, where prices leapt 28.4 per cent in 12 months, with double-digit rises also recorded in Darwin, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Experts are startled and nervous.

ANZ senior economist Felicity Emmett went ahead of the pack in March when she forecast overall capital city housing price growth of 17 per cent this year, warning it would lock some aspiring first-home buyers out. But she was still surprised to see the latest sharp gains.

“If you don’t own a home, that deposit hurdle has become much higher,” she said. “For prospective first-home buyers, it is very, very difficult to get into the market.”

Although the data is for the period until June 30, when Sydney’s latest lockdown had just begun, the figures are stark reading against a backdrop of new stay-at-home measures that have put many out of work in Australia’s largest city – a reminder of the extended restrictions in Melbourne last year and snap lockdowns in other capitals in between stretches of economic recovery and optimism.

Support payments were on offer, and workers returned to their jobs as the health situation improved, but they bear the scars of income forgone.

“It makes me really sad seeing these kinds of figures,” University of Melbourne housing research fellow Kate Raynor said. “It’s really positive if you own your own home, but the equity implications of this are really huge.

“[An almost] 30 per cent increase in Canberra is a horrific outcome from a housing equality and equity perspective.”

She points out that casual workers on lower incomes were probably not about to buy property anyway, a departure from the opportunities afforded to previous generations.

“The people who were suffering most from the pandemic are the furthest from being able to buy a house,” she said.

“Twenty-five years ago, if you were a low-income household, you could still consider it.

“If you’re living in Sydney and you don’t have wealthy parents … I think that dream is pretty dead unless you’re going 40 kilometres, 50 kilometres out of the CBD.”

Housing expert Chris Martin also raised the equity issue.

“One way of looking at these alarming figures is in terms of inequality,” the senior research fellow at the UNSW City Futures Research Centre said.

“[It is a] drastic increase in wealth for property owners while, in Sydney especially, real economic activity is being suppressed, and a growing number of households are losing work and income.

“How gruelling would that be for someone to have their income from work disrupted as it has been in numerous cities numerous times over the past year … they’re losing out while houses make even more money than they ever have.”

He adds that it’s savers income that gets taxed, but wealth stored in the family home is untaxed and can be transferred to adult children to help them get into the market, leaving anyone without this assistance behind.

“It’s grim,” he said.

Is there any hope? Depending on their family situation, first-time buyers could look to apartments instead of houses, where the pace of growth has been more subdued, although four cities are at or close to record unit prices.

The federal government’s First Home Loan Deposit Scheme has helped 10,000 first-home buyers into the market for each of the past few financial years and has since been expanded to new homes and single parents. It allows the purchase of a modest home with only a 5 per cent deposit, up to city-specific price caps, if you can find a home within budget that works. The HomeBuilder grant for new builds has ended, and state governments offered temporary stamp duty savings, and the uptick in first-time buyers is subsiding in tandem.

A widespread shift to working from home allowed some city workers to move to cheaper outer suburbs and commute two or three days a week, pushing up prices in some outer-ring neighbourhoods.

A similar move from cities into affordable regional towns has sent regional house prices through the roof, with a dozen regional areas rising more than 30 per cent in a year.

Picking between an apartment that a family will grow out of or moving to the urban fringe is an “unenviable choice”, Grattan Institute program director for household finances Brendan Coates said.

“It does put more pressure on the government to do something to improve housing affordability,” he said.

“Housing affordability looks like it’s going to be a big discussion point heading into the federal election.”

It won’t be reform to tax concessions for property investors, with federal Labor this week dumping a policy that would have curbed negative gearing tax breaks.

But he welcomed an upcoming federal inquiry into housing supply that will consider zoning restrictions that make it harder to build new medium-density housing in the inner and middle suburbs.

“Unless governments start to face up that there is a real, growing problem here, housing affordability will continue to worsen, fewer Australians will own their own homes,” he said.

“Given how important housing is to the Australian dream, that’s a sad thing.”


Inner-city Sydney losing its shine for home-buyers

Inner-city Sydney is losing its shine for home-buyers, with the premium people are prepared to pay to live close to the city falling steadily over the past century – and forecast to fall even more steeply in the next three to five years.

New research conducted by the University of Technology Sydney found that Sydneysiders were now less prepared to pay extra to live closer to the CBD than at any other time in recent history.

“And it looks like this current trend is likely to continue at least for the next three to five years,” said study co-author Shanaka Herath. “It’s always very difficult to predict in the medium and long term what might happen, but this is something that may well stay.

“That’s becoming more likely with the current popularity of working from home with the COVID-19 pandemic, so people don’t have to commute to the city to work.”

The price premium for living close to the inner city fell from 2 per cent per kilometre away from the city in 1931 to 1 per cent per kilometre in 1948, and then dropped further to 0.5 per cent per kilometre in 2009, according to previous research, Dr Herath said.

His latest study, with Dr Ajith Jayasekare, City Proximity, Travel Modes and House Prices: The Three Cities in Sydney, published in the Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, found that Sydney’s popularity had fallen further still in the middle and outer rings.

In middle Sydney, the median price of a house 30 kilometres from the CBD had a price premium of just 0.4 per cent per kilometre, and in outer Sydney, a rock-bottom price premium of 0.1 per cent a kilometre.

In terms of pricing, that means the median price of a house in middle Sydney is around $1.32 million and there is, on average, a price discount of $5280 per kilometre away from the CBD.

In outer Sydney, the median price of a house 50 kilometres from the CBD (in outer Sydney) is around $785,000 and homebuyers pay $1099 less on average for an additional kilometre away from the CBD.

“We can see the price premium declining steadily,” said Dr Herath. “With the majority of Sydney residents now living in the west, they’re a lot less willing to pay more to live closer to the centre. There is so much more amenity in the outer suburbs of Sydney now than there used to be, and much better transport.

“A location that is a long distance away from the city centre but accessible via a fast motorway may be preferred to a closer location that is only accessible via slow, winding backroads.

“By using these different measures, we were better able to capture the reality of how residents perceive and value proximity to the city centre, and provide an accurate analysis of house price decline with every additional kilometre and every additional minute of travel time.”

The findings have been welcomed by those in Sydney’s outer ring, so often characterised as longing to live closer to the city, if only they could. Doug Driscoll, CEO of real estate agency Starr Partners, which has 30 offices in western Sydney, said that was totally wrong.

“I’m so glad that a tangible, quantifiable study has at last been done to show how erroneous, old-fashioned and outdated the idea is that people in the west routinely travel into the Sydney CBD to work and would love to live in the eastern suburbs if only they could afford it,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case for several years.

“Now, 12 per cent of the entire Australian population live in western Sydney and most of them don’t want to work in the traditional CBD, or seek work there. They’re now going to the enormous hubs of Marsden Park, Parramatta and Bella Vista where hundreds of thousands of people are employed. And a lot of westerners couldn’t think of anything worse than living somewhere close to the city!”

Executive director at Business Western Sydney, David Borger, agreed. He said people now wanted to work close to home, so were telecommuting or working in hubs closer to western Sydney rather than in the CBD.

“The inner city has had its heyday,” Mr Borger said. “We’ve seen the rise and now we’re seeing its fall. After World War II, people abandoned the city to move out to the suburbs for safety, and now we’re seeing that happening again with COVID-19.

“People are seeking quality of life, and they can get that with a shorter commute.”


Increased property price caps for first-home-buyer stamp duty relief coming to an end

Time is running out for first-home buyers looking to avoid paying stamp duty on new homes worth up to $800,000, with the expanded measure set to expire this week.

First-home buyers have until July 31 to save more than $31,000 on stamp duty fees for new homes in New South Wales, with a temporary extension of stamp duty relief scheduled to end this month.

The increased price caps, announced last July to support the construction industry and first-home-buyer activity, waived or reduced the duty bill for more than 7500 first-home buyers, government figures show.

As of August 1, the property price cap for a stamp duty exemption will drop back from $800,000 to $650,000, while the price cut-off for concessions will also drop from $1 million to $800,000.

Price thresholds for stamp-duty relief on vacant land will also pull back, dropping from $400,000 to $350,000 for an exemption, with concessions to cut out at $450,000, down from the increased cap of $500,000.

The fast-approaching deadline has first-home buyers looking to lock in purchases before the end of July, developers say, though they’ve seen nowhere near the rush seen in the final weeks of the HomeBuilder scheme.

“We’re seeing a little bit more urgency on certain deals,” said ALAND sales director Mark Bernberg. “[But] is it the same stampede we saw at the end of HomeBuilder? Definitely not. “If [first-home buyers] wait one more week you do have to pay more, [so] you really are saving. But the fact of the matter is that, with HomeBuilder, it was a cash contribution coming back into your account and that is always more powerful than an incentive of not having to pay [tax].”

Mr Bernberg said many first-home buyers his company spoke to had been unaware of the looming changes, but noted that many of its western Sydney properties would still be eligible for duty relief under the lower price caps.

“If you went further up the food chain, you probably would find it’s pushed more sales forward,” he said.

Almost 41,000 first-home buyers were granted stamp duty exemptions or concessions over the 10 months to May, the latest government figures show, up about 40 per cent on the previous year, as first-home buyer activity surged. Almost one in five of these exemptions and concessions were only possible under the increased price caps.

CDMA Australia sales and marketing manager Kevin Chen said enquiries had picked up during lockdown, with some first-home buyers wanting to lock in purchases before the changes.

“They are looking for something they can move into quickly – large size units or townhouses. First-home-buyer stamp duty concessions, of course, have helped and driven a sense of FOMO,” he said.

Mr Chen said an extension of the increased price caps would have helped more first-home buyers into the market, but stamp duty reform would have had the most meaningful impact.

The past year has seen a surge in property prices and first-home-buyer and home-building activity, off the back of record-low interest rates, the federal government’s HomeBuilder grant and the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme.

However first-home-buyer volumes have declined over the past few months, and building and renovation activity was recently brought to a halt, having been banned until July 30 during Sydney’s lockdown.

Cameron Leggatt, executive general manager of development at Frasers Property Australia, said incentives had brought forward first-home-buyer activity, resulting in a pullback in more recent months.

“I could see why the government would have seen the momentum in the market and thought it was a good time to pull [the stamp duty relief price caps] back,” he said “[But now we are back in lockdown] the next few weeks … will probably determine if something like this is still required.”

While there was still good enquiry for first-home buyers, Mr Leggatt said, Frasers had seen little rush to get in before the June 31 deadline – not like it saw with HomeBuilder.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the temporary increase to the price cap ensured confidence was maintained in the property and construction sectors at a critical time.

He said the government recognised the significant burden that stamp duty represented for first home-buyers, which is one of the reasons why it had proposed reform to the property tax system.


More than half a million households able to green their home with ultra-low interest loan

More than half a million home owners will soon have an opportunity to make their homes more energy-efficient, as locked-down residents face bill shock in the winter chill.

The Commonwealth Bank is offering ultra-low interest green loans for home energy efficiency upgrades, extending the program to 600,000 home loan customers after a pilot earlier this year.

It will allow customers to purchase and install up to $20,000 worth of clean energy products, from solar panels to batteries, through a secured fixed rate of 0.99 per cent over 10 years. It will not attract any establishment or monthly loan service fees, and customers will not be penalised for early repayment.

Just under a thousand home owners took up the pilot scheme in February, funding almost $4 million in renewable energy upgrades.

NSW led the uptake, with households in Rouse Hill topping the list.

It was followed by Trinity Beach, Queensland and Bonython in the ACT.

Almost nine in 10 households chose to install solar panels and 10 per cent installed solar and batteries. Just 4 per cent installed batteries only.

The introduction of another green loan by one of the big four banks would help normalise sustainability in homes, said Davina Rooney, Green Building Council of Australia chief executive.

“It will lead to substantial energy savings for those customers, it will lead to huge environmental savings, and it starts to normalise this change across the home’s space,” Ms Rooney said.

But it also sent a broader message to the housing market and policymakers that people were voting with their wallets on renewable energy within their own homes, Ms Rooney said.

“As many home owners are locked up, they discover just how uncomfortable their homes are and how expensive they are to run.

“So, we need to lean into better homes for all Australians, whether that is greening existing homes or working volume builders to get more sustainable products in the new home space.”

Commonwealth Bank of Australia would be funding $12 billion worth of sustainable housing upgrades if there were a 100 per cent take-up, which was a “hugely important” investment, said Daniel Gocher, executive director of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.

“You can pretty much reduce your personal carbon footprint to zero. If you have a battery, you essentially go off-grid for most of the year,” Mr Gocher said.

If home owners installed only solar panels, it would cut down energy bills as well as reduce electricity prices, he said.

“If you’re washing through the day, the things that are most emissions-intensive, your washing, your drying, you can cut down your bills by a large amount.”

“It has a massive impact on the grid. [Given] what we’ve seen in the past couple of years, we’re leading the world in investment in rooftop solar.

“Everyone benefits from those lower electricity prices, and everyone benefits from less pollution.”

Whether it is to save money or help contribute to saving the environment, Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s retail banking group executive Angus Sullivan said customers were keen to take advantage of the loan.

“There is a bit of a process of engagement and learning for customers before they take it up. It’s a very good value offer of credit.

“Spend money on whatever [renewable technology] it is, and you will see the benefits month-to-month.”

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