How to get land into the HouseMate public homeownership system
It is dead easy. And cheap. We do it all the time when we want things. But usually that's important political priorities like casinos.
In 2019, the Queensland government made available 26Ha of CBD land they owned for an important project. That is 10% of the land area of Brisbane’s CBD peninsula.
That important project was a casino.
More recently, the Queensland government acquired 7.5Ha of inner-city riverside land in South Brisbane. It paid $165 million for it.
Because they would like the international media to use a nice new building for a two week period in 2032. Yes, Brisbane will be hosting the Olympics in a decade’s time and that site was acquired for the official Olympic media centre.
Additionally, the Queensland government appears to be spending $39 million to relocate greyhound racing from Albion to make use of a 27Ha inner-city site that currently has a racetrack and sports fields.
The reason? More Olympic sports venues.
I find it truly amazing how so much highly valuable inner-city space can be quickly made available for important political priorities.
The point of these examples is to dispel one of the main concerns I heard about my proposal for a mass scale public housing developer that I’ve dubbed HouseMate. That concern is that finding sites to use for a public homeownership scheme is difficult and expensive in our capital cities.
If this is true, then it is also true for massive Olympic venues and casinos. But that hasn’t stopped them from being developed. So it shouldn’t stop public housing from being developed either if that use of land was a priority.
The 7.5Ha site in South Brisbane mentioned above is a great example of what might be a worst-case scenario for getting sites into HouseMate—a large inner-city riverfront site in an expensive suburb.
But how bad is it really?
At a purchase price of $165 million, if 2,500 dwellings are built on the site the land cost is only $66,000 per dwelling.
If the site has other retail and commercial uses, and public parks, that represent a quarter of the use, then the cost for the residential use is only $125 million, or $50,000 per dwelling.
In terms of being reflective of the type of development that could occur, a nearby 2.6Ha site has been under development for the past 5 years called West Village. It has 1,250 apartments and 18,500sqm of retail and commercial uses on a site a third as large.
So this 7.5Ha site could easily be developed into “two West Villages” while leaving 2.4Ha for parks, roads and open spaces at a land cost of $50,000 per dwelling. This is exactly the budget I used in the HouseMate report for the national average cost per dwelling.
But remember, this is a worst-case scenario.
It is clearly possible to get plenty of land into a public homeownership scheme if we want to at a reasonable price. This is not a real constraint. It is a political choice to only use compulsory acquisition powers to get massive well-located sites for casinos and Olympic venues rather than housing.
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