Developer lobbyists and their government friends do a great job of getting the media to promote a false narrative about the motivations of residents who care for their suburbs.
This constant flow of ill-informed articles come about because journalists adopt the industry bodies and government propaganda that blames housing shortages on residents of established suburbs.
The unsavoury truths they do not want discussed are tax changes that were introduced decades ago and have been a raging success in delivering increased profits to developers. The most glaring problems are how capital gains tax was changed to suit developers and how negative gearing has contributed to making home ownership less accessible.
Then there is the lost decade of social housing. Governments, including the ACT’s coalition government, have been selling off social housing. They have tried to distract from the devastating effects of their actions by talking up their housing renewal programs. The reality is the numbers of social houses has dropped. The spin about numbers built is an attempt to deny the reality of the net deficit of social housing and that so much of the profits from sale was directed to other programs.
A serious aspect of housing has been identified by journalist who actually research and produce evidence. This was done recently by Peter Martin when he identified that the number of houses that could be built in any year has not shifted that much. Regardless of any additional government funding the housing industry has only been able to produce more or less the same limited annual supply.
The picture on housing gets more complicated when you add in the statistics that houses have been left vacant for investment reasons with some going onto to the short term (eg Airbnb) rental markets for quick profits.
Another extraordinary figure was the number of development applications that had been approved but had been paused – meaning thousands of houses were approved across several states but construction was not commenced.
Into the quagmire of diversionary tactics marched the mindless ‘Missing Middle’ campaigners and their gullible followers. Taking up the developer’s false narratives, these groups argue that residents are hindering the building of the missing middle, and therefore more affordable housing, through their opposition to the deregulation of planning codes of established residential areas.
This misleading missing middle argument is another developer driven diversionary attempt to shift blame onto residents for the obvious decades of the missing meaningful housing programs and the deeply flawed tax systems that favour investors over those seeking to have a roof over their heads.
More insulting are journalists who continue the lie that one of the reasons for the decline in social housing is that residents oppose social housing in their suburbs. They need to read the community’s submissions that support and encourage quality social housing that is built according to planning rules.
Few journalist and politicians take the time to engage with residents to ascertain that their opposition to rampant development is about what they do not see happening – that being an emphasis on design, climate, biodiversity, transport needs and the preservation of suburban character. Within those parameters many innovations in housing types and proposals to increase density would be possible.
The close relationships governments have with developers no longer encourage or allows for objectivity. Planning and developer decisions are made within a culture that has the emphasis on the friendly relationships with the lobbyists and far less on how decisions affect current or future residents.
The planning minister and his boss the chief minister fail to acknowledge that the vast majority of submissions oppose the complex deregulation reforms. When an inner southside resident read through the 400 submissions on the dreadful changes to the ACT planning system, it was no surprise that just three submissions supported what was being proposed. Somehow the ACT planning minister still boasted about the support for his proposals to deregulate. The media reported this false statement as facts.
Meanwhile, the ACT government and its supporters continue to gaslight residents as their normal response to issues raised. The Nimby name-calling and other nastiness towards residents continues with ACT Greenslabor looking the other way.
The Greenslabor politicians act as if they endorse the community representatives being the subject of attacks and having to defend themselves against online trolling by government supporters. Honesty and respect for residents from within this ACT government remains wishful thinking.
Is this what they call being progressive?
update: another version of this piece was originally published in City News Canberra. As suggested in the piece, the two comments that were added by Barr supporters were prime examples of gaslighting and the blatant use of false narratives. They failed to see the irony!
More insidious is that the two are most likely known characters who have trolled any writers who criticise Andrew Barr but they now do so using new pseudonyms. They know what they do but do not want to be identified – being known supporters of Barr and co.
Such is the sad state of democracy and transparency within this Greenslabor government and its political circles.