Hunter not on agenda for housing program

NEW state budget initiatives aimed at boosting housing construction have been described as ‘‘underwhelming’’, with no Hunter sites among those targeted for fast-tracked development, a property industry group says.

The Property Council of Australia’s Hunter chapter welcomed yesterday the government’s moves to skew financial support towards buyers of new homes, by boosting first-home buyer grants and continuing stamp duty exemptions.

The changes, in Tuesday’s budget, also mean first-home buyers of existing properties will lose a $7000 grant from October.

The government would also pay for key pieces of infrastructure needed to enable development at 10 NSW sites, mostly around Sydney, in an effort to boost the state’s low housing construction rate and improve affordability.

Hunter chapter chairman Ed Crawford said the boosted grants would encourage new housing in the region.

But the council was also disappointed there were no Hunter sites among those to be targeted as part of the accelerated housing program – which was ‘‘underwhelming’’ news.

He said several planning issues affecting the region were still unresolved.

They included uncertainty about whether the government would push ahead with charging developers a set levy for state infrastructure needed to support housing in new areas of the Lower Hunter, or when a major review of the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy would be completed.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the government was encouraging urban sprawl and that developers should have to pay for the infrastructure their projects needed, not taxpayers.

The budget contained $13million for the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to fast-track assessment of major projects.

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