UDIA In Action

2020 has been a year like no other, one that has provided many challenges and we are grateful for the continued support from our members throughout.

While we have navigated a range of challenges this year, we are proud to have continued to represent our members effectively to ensure our industry can contribute to the state’s economic recovery.

Key milestones this year included the fast tracking of planning reform, the introduction of direct stimulus measures and the release of key policy including most recently the Medium Density Residential Design Code, launched by the Premier at our final industry luncheon for 2020.

As we look towards the new year, we will continue to promote our #liveworkinvestWA State Election campaign in the lead up to March 2021.

UDIA WA is only as strong as the support it receives from our valued members, partners, supporters and stakeholders and it is with great pleasure that Tanya, Chris G, Gemma, Claire, Georgia, Luke, Chris T, Mel and Carissa would like to thank you for all of your support throughout 2020 and wish you and your family a happy and safe festive season and a Happy New Year.

The UDIA office will be closed from 4pm on Wednesday 23 December until Monday 4 January, 2021.

State Planning Policy 7.2 – Precinct Design released

UDIA WA has provided a cautious welcome for the release this morning of State Planning Policy 7.2 – Precinct Design, which has been produced to guide development around precincts including METRONET stations.

Under the new policy, development of complex sites will require a precinct plan focusing on six key elements – urban ecology, urban structure, public realm, movement, land use and built form and will be developed in consultation with the community.

This includes activity centres, train stations, land adjacent to major transport routes and some residential and mixed-use developments, ensuring the new precinct responds to community expectations and delivers positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.

The new policy also addresses infill sites that require a high level of planning and design due to their complexity, such as significant heritage or environmental considerations, or requiring a design response that embraces local character and meets community needs.

In our submission on the draft policy, UDIA WA outlined specific concerns regarding the proposal that “the decision-maker should not approve an application for subdivision or development approval where there is no precinct plan in place”, highlighting the delays and uncertainty that this would cause in potentially hundreds different of areas. Whilst this requirement appears to have been addressed, where there is no precinct in place, the adopted policy requires decision makers to consider the objectives, measures and outcomes of the policy. UDIA will seek further clarity on what this means in practice.

Further information about the new policy is available here.

State Recovery Advisory Group

This afternoon, UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck is attending the latest meeting of the State Recovery Advisory Group, following an invitation to join by Premier Mark McGowan.

The 2-hour long meeting will include an update on recovery implementation from State Recovery Controller Sharyn O’Neill before a facilitated discussion will look at what the current key impacts are and what issues are still emerging and will evolve as we move into 2021.

Final episode of The Urbanist Live for 2020

UDIA WA is very proud to release the final episode of The Urbanist Live for 2020, which is also the second episode in our special series devoted to diversity and inclusion.

In this episode UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck talks to UDIA WA Industry Workplace and Diversity Committee members Simon Browne (Longreach Recruitment) and David Paz (Hesperia) about the changing nature of the employment market in Western Australia following the pandemic.

The episode rounds off what has been an insightful first year for our podcast series and we would like to extend our thanks to all our contributors and listeners this year and we look forward to providing you with new and exciting content in 2021.

To listen to the latest episode, click here.

State of the Nation’s Housing 2020 Report

The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation has released its first annual State of the Nation’s Housing 2020 report, detailing the five-year forecast for housing supply, demand and affordability.

The report delivers on NHFIC’s mandate of monitoring housing demand, supply and affordability, while also identifying potential gaps between housing demand and supply.

UDIA National released a media statement earlier this week that highlighted the report shows the need to eliminate barriers to housing supply and improve affordability for homebuyers.

UDIA National said the report is a crucial tool in informing policy makers on decisions needed to ease access to home ownership.

“Australia has one of the world’s least affordable housing markets, and the ongoing imbalance between supply and demand is the underlying reason,” UDIA National President Simon Basheer said.

“The report makes clear the slowdown in immigration and population growth due to COVID-19 has given us a temporary reprieve from long-term pressures in housing markets.

“The beneficial effects of initiatives like HomeBuilder will help stimulate supply in the short-term and produce rates of new housing construction that outstrip demand for the next two years primarily due to the negative levels of overseas migration at this time.

“However, the headline conclusion of the report is that affordability will continue to decline in the long-term without a serious and sustained injection of supply.

“We need to see a coordinated response from governments that targets the regulatory and tax barriers to boosting housing supply, improving affordability and making home ownership easier.”

The report states:

“NHFIC’s projections see housing demand bouncing back and will exceed new housing supply between 2023 and 2025. Affordability for renters and prospective first home buyers could deteriorate if supply is not responsive to the strong rebound in demand over this time and beyond.”

Mr Basheer is urging a holistic plan from governments to target inefficient planning and approvals systems, excessive taxes and other red tape that inhibits the delivery of new housing.

For more information and to read the report in full, click here.

Mid-year Review shows strengthening WA economy

This week saw the release of the 2020-21 Mid-year Review which highlights that Western Australia’s strong economic recovery continues to exceed expectations.

In 2020-21 the forecast net operating surplus has been revised up to $2.2 billion, from $1.2 billion at the Budget delivered in early October, with stronger than expected surpluses anticipated over the forward estimates.

Net debt projections have been revised down by $1.4 billion since Budget to $41.4 billion by June 30, 2024.

The Western Australian economy continues to lead the nation, with forecast growth in Gross State Product revised up from 1.25% in 2020-21 at Budget to 2% at the Mid-year Review – driven by a strong increase to the domestic economy.

WA’s labour market has also recovered at a faster rate than expected at Budget.

The WA Treasury have revised up employment growth in 2020-21 from a 0.25% contraction to a 1% increase in annual average terms. In year ended terms, the same basis used by the Commonwealth, employment is expected to grow by 6.5% or almost 85,000 jobs.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released this week also showed that the number of jobs in Western Australia now exceeds pre-COVID levels.

The data for the week ending November 28 showed the number of people in jobs was up 0.7% compared to the week ending March 14, 2020, and the number of jobs in WA increased 0.4% in the fortnight ending November 28.

Nationally, the number of jobs is still 2% lower than pre-COVID levels, with Victoria 4.3% lower and New South Wales down 1.7%.

Importantly, after women were disproportionately impacted by job losses due to COVID-19, the number of jobs for women is now 0.9% higher than in mid-March and WA is the only State to have managed a complete recovery in the number of jobs performed by women.

COVID-19 accelerates structural shifts in infrastructure use

A new report from Infrastructure Australia has found that the Australian infrastructure sector responded well to the challenges of COVID-19, while the pandemic accelerated structural trends such as digitisation, more local and regional infrastructure use, as well as service innovations and adaptations.

The findings are part of a new report, Infrastructure beyond COVID-19: A national study on the impacts of the pandemic on Australia, developed by Infrastructure Australia in collaboration with L.E.K Consulting.

Requested by the Australian Government in the 2020–21 Federal Budget to supplement work already underway on the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, the report highlights sweeping changes in the way Australians use critical infrastructure – across the transport, telecommunications, digital, energy, water, waste, and social infrastructure sectors.

Infrastructure beyond COVID-19 identifies new challenges and opportunities to build on the evidence base of the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit and will inform the recommendations in the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan.

For more information, click here.

Western Australians have their say on the future of infrastructure in the State

A new report released by Infrastructure WA (IWA) summarises feedback from IWA’s wide-ranging consultation program on its A Stronger Tomorrow – State Infrastructure Strategy Discussion Paper which concluded in late August this year.

From its consultation process, IWA received more than 140 submissions on its Discussion Paper, had more than 520 attendees at its workshops and also surveyed nearly 600 Western Australians via its online survey.

Many people stated historically there was a perceived lack of strategic vision for infrastructure in WA, and the State Infrastructure Strategy should provide this direction where necessary.

IWA will now move forward in preparing a draft State Infrastructure Strategy which it intends to unveil to the public for consultation in mid-2021.

To read the report, click here.

First home buyers continue to take advantage of generous Government support

First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) data for November collected by the Department of Finance shows that the number of FHOG applications were 157% higher in November 2020, than a year earlier.

A total of 1,322 FHOG applications were received in November, slightly lower than October, although applications for the past two months have been at their highest level since 2009.

In annual terms, the number of FHOG applications is 50.6% higher in the year to November.

The strong result reflects the strong level of activity in the housing market, following the announcement of the $20,000 Building Bonus grant in early June.

The top five locations for FHOG applications for the year-to-date were Piara Waters, Baldivis, Brabham, Alkimos and Hammond Park, which accounted for 9.7% of all FHOG applications.

New development standards for City of Joondalup infill areas

Planning Minister Rita Saffioti has approved a local planning scheme amendment to guide future infill development within the City of Joondalup’s 10 Housing Opportunity Areas.

The amendment to the City of Joondalup’s Local Planning Scheme No. 3 introduce a set of development standards to ensure integrated housing diversity and infill is located within appropriate locations, close to train stations, in activity centres and on corner lots.

Housing Opportunity Areas were introduced by the City of Joondalup in 2016 which identify targeted residential pockets that could support increased density and infill development. In the City of Joondalup, those areas are parts of Duncraig, Warwick, Greenwood, Sorrento, Padbury, Kallaroo, Hillarys, Woodvale, Heathridge, Beldon, Edgewater and Currambine.

The new development standards have responded to community feedback and will restrict the use of multiple dwellings to approximately 50% of residential blocks currently coded R20 or R40 – in these Housing Opportunity Areas.

Minimum frontage widths and increased requirements for the protection of solar access will protect the existing amenity in quieter suburban areas, particularly cul-de-sac locations.

The next step is to finalise a local planning policy, which will consider additional development standards such as design requirements for landscaping and trees, car parking, and setbacks from property boundaries.

RBA Minutes

On Tuesday the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) released the minutes from December’s Monetary Policy Meeting of the Reserve Bank Board wherein the Board agreed to keep the official cash rate target at 0.1%.

Within the meeting the Board discussed international and domestic economic developments, international and domestic financial markets as well as a a special paper on the future of money and changes in the way payments are made.

As part of this they discussed the longer-term trend towards the use of electronic payment methods by households and the apparent acceleration in this trend as a result of the pandemic. Members noted that the shift from cash to electronic payments is further advanced in Australia than in a number of other countries. However, demand for cash as a store of value had continued to grow in Australia and most other advanced economies.

Members discussed different possible design features for a retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) and the associated public policy issues. A retail CBDC might assist with some particular use cases, but it could fundamentally change the structure of the financial system and introduce new financial stability risks. It therefore did not appear that a public policy case for a retail CBDC currently existed in Australia.

Members noted that there could be stronger arguments in favour of a wholesale CBDC and that it was important for the Bank to continue to conduct research in this area and monitor developments in other jurisdictions.

Following this they discussed considerations for monetary policy before reaffirming the existing policy settings, namely:

  • a target for the cash rate of 0.1%;
  • an interest rate of zero on Exchange Settlement balances held by financial institutions at the Bank;
  • a target of around 0.1% for the yield on the 3-year Australian Government bond;
  • the expanded Term Funding Facility to support credit to businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, with an interest rate on new drawings of 0.1%; and
  • the purchase of $100 billion of government bonds of maturities of around 5 to 10 years over the 6 months following the Board meeting on 3 November 2020.

To read the minutes in full, click here.