Renters want stability and security of tenure for the same reasons property owners do.
They seek a stable location that enables the household to stay connected with their family, friends, schools, jobs and community.
Moving frequently is also inconvenient and expensive, so the ongoing threat of not having leases renewed leaves renters, especially low-income renters, vulnerable.
There is now a new concept that aims to alleviate some of the issues.
Build to rent is where investors build multi-unit buildings and, instead of selling the units, they are retained to rent.
Build to rent is well established in the UK and USA, but never really taken up in Australia by large scale investors.
Indeed rental housing supply has been primarily come from individuals rather than or large investors or even government in Australia. It’s been mostly left to mum and dad investors.
There have been very few large scale investors with the capacity or preparedness to take it on. Certainly Harry Triguboff leads the way given the many apartments he has kept in his private portfolio. While such apartment developments increase rental supply, they do not target lower income households.
Unlike many European countries where public/social housing is a major component of the housing profile, social housing has never exceeded more than six percent of Australia’s housing stock.
An Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute study indicated big Australian investor institutions had no experience of large scale investment in rental housing in to judge Australian outcomes. Untried investment niches normally require a pioneering investor and a novelty premium on the rate of return.
The recent announcement by NSW Minister for Social Housing, Pru Goward of a project in Redfern provides such a positive start towards the aim of providing a more diverse supply of housing for Sydney. The site will accommodate social, affordable and market rental housing on land provided by the NSW government.
The government to retain the land while investors, in partnership with community housing providers will fund, build and manage the site under a 40 year lease.
The Elizabeth Street site, which includes the Police Citizens Youth Club premises, will be exempt from land tax. It’s expected 500 dwellings will be built with 30 per cent earmarked for affordable housing.
The Property Council NSW executive director Jane Fitzgerald said the government has put its money where its mouth is. “They’re not only giving the land but also giving a full land tax exemption for the project which should really make a difference for making the financials stack up,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
One of the key reasons for Australia’s slow embrace has been the perceived low returns. High property management costs are another barrier, coupled by the illiquidity that comes with all property assets.
There also remains a perceived high risk, of public policy changes. Unlike commercial property, the current GST rules won’t help the roll out of build-to-rent.
That’s something for Treasurer Scott Morrison to address. The shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has sought a parliamentary review as it “would be a shame to see this sector get killed by policy.”
This article first appeared in The Daily Telegraph.