UDIA National: Helping Australia Bounce Back

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) continues to engage with governments on how the industry can help sustain and revive the Australian economy following the effects of COVID-19.

The urban development industry is not immune from the economic fall-out. However, we also have a vital role to play in maintaining activity for as long as it is safe to do so, as well as ensuring we are central to the recovery.

UDIA National has today released Helping Australia Bounce Back’ – an advocacy document that details six strategic steps governments can take now to stimulate housing and construction, and how they fit in the context of our larger policy goals.

To read more about this document and to download it in full, click here.

State Government announces $1 billion stimulus package

While UDIA WA welcomed the state government’s announcement earlier this week of a $1 billion economic and health package assisting WA households experiencing financial hardship as the right move to provide immediate relief for those doing it tough, we continue to advocate strongly for broader measures to support our industry.

To date, the Government has focused on ways to alleviate immediate financial stress on households, for example in relation to the interest free payment arrangements for duties and taxes and measures for Keystart customers.

UDIA WA would like to see even further measures put in place to directly support our sector, a sector that contributes significantly to the state economy and will be integral to the economic recovery down the track.

The Premier has stated that the Government will continue to make further announcements to support Western Australians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and we hope to see more targeted measures in relation to the property industry.

UDIA WA presented several short-term recommendations directly to the Premier last week, and we continue to work on a more comprehensive suite of longer-term recommendations that will be released in the coming week.

For more information about the latest stimulus package from the State Government, along with a range of information related to COVID 19 and industry, visit the UDIA WA COVID 19 Industry Updates page  here.

RBA release minutes from special meeting

On Wednesday the Reserve Bank of Australia released the minutes from its special meeting convened on March 18 to consider options for monetary policy responses to the economic effects of the novel coronavirus disease.

It was during this meeting the decision was made to introduce a package of policy measures to assist the economy and reduce the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The elements of the package were as follows:

  1. Reduce the official cash rate to 0.25%
  2. A target for the yield on 3-year Australian Government bonds of around 0.25 per cent
  3. A term funding facility for the banking system, with particular support for credit to small and medium-sized businesses
  4. Exchange settlement balances at the Reserve Bank will be remunerated at 10 basis points, rather than zero as would have been the case under the previous arrangements

UDIA welcomed the measures from the RBA and was particularly pleased to see the introduction of a term funding facility for the banking system to support credit to businesses.

Under the proposed facility, the RBA would provide a three-year funding facility to authorised deposit-taking institutions (ADIs) at a fixed rate of 0.25 per cent, which was substantially below lenders’ current funding costs. The facility ensures ADIs would have access to additional funding if they increased lending to businesses, especially to small and medium-sized businesses, with these funds able to be drawn upon until the end of March 2021.

The overall policy package was agreed upon following discussions between the RBA Board members around the financial implications of COVID-19 on both a global and national scale and looking at the variety of measures being introduced by central banks across the world.

Members discussed the impacts of these measures around the world and how the rapidly changing situation was affecting the outlook for economic activity. Members noted the immediate outlook for the Australian and global economies was highly uncertain it was very likely that most countries would experience a very sharp contraction in economic activity.

As part of this, the minutes highlighted it was likely Australia would experience a very material contraction in economic activity, which would spread across the March and June quarters and potentially longer.

If this was to be the case, that would signal Australia’s first official recession in over two decades. Despite this, the members at the meeting were confident that following containment of COVID-19, the economy is expected to recover, but the timing of this was uncertain.

For more information or to read the full minutes, including details of the RBA’s decisions on monetary policy, click here.

Energy Efficiency provisions in the 2019 National Construction Code

UDIA WA has welcomed the decision by the State Government to dis-apply the separate heating and cooling load limits for residential energy efficiency in Western Australia under the National Construction Code (NCC) 2019.

The decision ensures Western Australian homeowners and builders are not unfairly disadvantaged for their choice of location or building material.

While the proposed amendments were well intended, they failed to properly consider and understand the local climate conditions. As a result, homes with west and south facing windows (those that capture the sea breeze) were being penalised by the amendments. The measures also failed to take into consideration the widespread take up of solar by WA households, and whilst this offsets actual energy use, this could not be included in the proposed energy rating assessment.

Had the proposed amendments gone ahead, all lots in Perth with a street frontage to the north, and all narrow lots facing east or west would have had to make significant building design alterations, such as eliminating alfresco areas, reducing glazing, redesign for increased side and rear setbacks or adding eaves in order to meet the new standards.

The proposed amendments would also have made it very difficult, if not impossible, for lightweight builds to comply with the new construction code.

This move is an excellent example of industry working with the Government to ensure a prosperous building industry now and into the future and we look forward to continuing to work alongside the Government on progressing initiatives and measures that are suited to Western Australia.

As part of this we are keen to work with the Government to ensure the next National Construction Code, due for release in 2022, is effective and delivers positive energy saving outcomes that benefit both new homeowners and help reduce our energy emissions.

Read the bulletin here.

Federal Government announces new stimulus package

On Monday 30 March Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a third economic stimulus package worth $130 billion that effectively gives business $1500 per employee per fortnight for the next six months.

The third stimulus package is designed to allow businesses to survive the initial shockwaves from the COVID-19 pandemic and retain employees even if they are effectively going into hibernation.

The stimulus package will include:

  • Employers and sole traders will be able to apply for $1500 “job keeper” flat payment per employee to keep on their staff.
  • To be eligible, employers will need to have lost 30 per cent of income or 50 per cent of income if the company has an annual revenue of more than $1 billion
  • The $130 billion package will support the wages of up to 6 million Australians throughout the coronavirus crisis.
  • Those who work for non-for-profits and New Zealanders will also be eligible to the “job keeper” payment
  • The income threshold for the partner of someone who has lost their job has been raised from $48,000 to $79,000 a year.
  • Workers who have already been stood down will be able to access the payment if they lost their job after March 1.

The jobkeeper subsidy will be eligible to all businesses, large and small, with full time, part time and casual (if they have been with the employer for 12 months or more) members of staff eligible to receive the subsidy.

The payments will be available from 1 May and will be backdated to today, with business that have needed to stand staff down since 1 March able to and encouraged to rescind the stand down notices and re-employ those staff members.

Combined with the previous economic measures, over $320 billion will be injected into the economy in a bid to avert the economic impacts of COVID-19.

For more information about the Government response to COVID-19, click here.

Intrastate travel banned but construction industry exempt

At midnight on Tuesday March 31 intrastate travel within Western Australia was banned to limit the spread of COVID-19 throughout WA’s regional areas.

The ban applies to all non-essential travel, however there are exemptions in place for people travelling to work, attending medical appointments or transporting freight among other essential reasons.

UDIA WA was pleased to see the construction industry was one of those specifically highlighted by WA Premier Mark McGowan as one of the essential industries exempt from the travel bans.

“Whilst tradesmen and workers within industry, in particular the construction industry, are exempt from the new intrastate travel restrictions, they must remain vigilant with social distancing practices and hygiene on site,” Mr McGowan said.

Check points and mobile police patrols will be in place to monitor travel across boundaries and ensure people are doing the right thing.

People are encouraged, where possible, to assist police by preparing documentation, such as a letter/email/SMS from an employer, to support their legitimate travel.

Police have the power to enforce these restrictions, and issue fines of up to $50,000.

Western Australia enters stage 3 restrictions: UDIA WA Subiaco office temporarily closed

At midnight on Tuesday 31 March the WA Government implemented stage 3 restrictions, which included indoor and outdoor gatherings being limited to two persons only.

The WA Government’s strong guidance to all Western Australians is to stay home unless for:

  • shopping for what you need – food, takeaway, and necessary supplies
  • medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements
  • exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.

Exceptions to this limit include:

  • people of the same household going out together
  • funerals – a maximum of 10 people
  • weddings – a maximum of 5 people.

All playgrounds, skate parks and outside gyms in public places will be closed.

The WA Government is bringing in $1,000 on-the-spot fines for individuals and $5,000 fines for businesses who disobey these rules.

In preparation for the above restrictions, the entire UDIA WA team started working remotely on Monday 30 March.

The decision means the 3 Wexford Street office in Subiaco will be closed temporarily, however we will continue to provide a range of opportunities to learn, advocate and engage with industry as we move through these unprecedented times.

Need Fill? Surplus sand available

In the process of constructing the Roe Highway/Kalamunda Road grade separation project, Georgiou have obtained a large amount of surplus fill material, which would be ideal for consultants, planners, developers and other stakeholders that may have a use for this material for their projects.

The fill material can be obtained by getting in touch with Georgiou direct who can provide more information about the specific details. Depending on your and the project’s requirements (timing, quality and the amount required), the fill may be free of charge or a fee may apply.

For further information or to make an enquiry about the fill material, contact Jason Fletcher on jason.fletcher@georgiou.com.au.

Job vacancies down in the year to February

The number of job vacancies in Australia decreased by 1.8 per cent over the year to February 2020, despite a small quarterly increase of 0.2 per cent, according to new trend figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the number of job vacancies decreased by 0.1 per cent in the February 2020 quarter and by 2.2 per cent over the year.

There was no notable impact of the COVID-19 virus on job vacancies for February 2020. The reference period for job vacancies fell at a point where there was only a relatively low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases within Australia and before it was declared a global pandemic.

We value your feedback!

UDIA is currently working on several submissions on behalf of members. We encourage you to forward any feedback on these items to policy@udiawa.com.au

  • Waste Reform consultation papers (here). Submissions close 15 July 2020:
    • Closing the loop: Waste reforms for a circular economy
    • Review of the waste levy

Site Security Update

With the continued impact of COVID-19 across the entire community, reported theft has reduced in the last week.

Eight reported incidents include two burglary, five stealing and one damage.

In Golden Bay thieves cut installed copper piping from a fully gassed air-conditioning unit after entering the roof space through a manhole.

In another incident in Burns Beach thieves caused extensive damage to a solid entry door but no other property was damaged or stolen, while in Hilbert offenders dismantled a solar CCTV system covering a new land development area.

GPS tracking devices are being deployed to numerous sites in anticipation of an eventual increase in onsite crime.

For more information on the importance of reporting all building and construction industry crime, click here.