property taxes and rates etc

Government duty to help housing supply

apartmentsWith the Treasurer warming up for his Queensland state budget on June 3rd it’s timely to ‘blue-sky’ how our pollies could actually be helping with housing affordability. What’s well-reported is the vast undersupply of housing, with market analyst Michael Matusik putting Queensland’s annual shortfall at 44,900 homes. Interesting to note is the revenue our state generates from property – with more than $3.7billion (yes billion) flowing from stamp duties on sales, land taxes and duties on mortgages.

Despite plenty of talk in 2000 that the GST could eventually replace state taxes, some 28% of our state’s revenue still comes from taxes and duties, with an unhealthy dependency on the property industry.

Would reducing some of these help our housing affordability crisis? While the government is scrapping mortgage duty (now down to 0.2% and nil from January 1st 2009) it’s stamp duty where the state really hauls in the bucks, up 16% this year to $2.8billion. While you pay no duty to buy listed shares, a property investment of $450,000 will land you a stamp duty bill of $14,225. It may be cheaper than other states but it’s still a huge disincentive to investors, and that impacts on tenants through higher rents. Should an investor pay more stamp duty than an owner occupier? ($600 more in the above example). There’s a third of our population that rent so surely we need incentives to create new housing for them.

Victoria this week moved to further reduce their stamp duty rates, and they remain the only state to offer a genuine incentive to build new property. In the Garden State buying off the plan means hefty savings in duty compared with established property – the amount is calculated only on what exists at the date of contract, usually just the land. It’s a simple idea, offers an immediate encouragement to bring new housing supply online and Queensland could do the same thing on June 3rd. Construction costs are still rocketing ahead with home builders and developers struggling to make new housing viable, and we’ll all grow old waiting for that to change.

With stamp duty revenue soaring up along with housing prices our government’s had a huge, largely unexpected windfall over the past three years. Solid moves to encourage new housing supply must surely be on their agenda.