In response to recent announcements to expand the eligibility for First Home Buyers Guarantee, the Yass Valley Times reached out to local agents, builders and developers for comments about how this might affect the Yass region, and what people can expect over time. Andrew Curlewis, principal agent and owner of Yass Valley Property and Chris Pothan, local builder and developer, commented on their issues and concerns regarding supply, demand and red tape facing the development of new, affordable properties for first-time homeowners, and possible alternatives and solutions. 

“It’s about weighing up supply, affordability, and the market.” Summarised Pothan, elaborating further on these core issues; “The biggest trouble we’re having at the moment is getting things approved. There’s a lot of red tape, which delays things a lot, which is often a local issue”

Quiet achiever - Developer-builder Chris Pothan carves out a new community - Pictured in foreground with lead excavator operator Anthony Field at Wellington Estate Yass

Developer-builder Chris Pothan carves out a new community – Pictured in the foreground with lead excavator operator Anthony Field at Wellington Estate Yass Photo credit: Jasmin Jones

The concept of red tape is a recurring theme in Chris’s and Andrew’s concerns, however, it’s an issue affecting all Councils across the State who take their lead from the State Government. Andrew shares the sentiment, commenting; 

“As agents and developers, we have to work within the framework the government gives us. If they want to deliver affordable housing then with those structures in place it makes it very difficult.” 

Some of these ‘red-tape’ issues addressed include supply and skill shortage, lot size, approvals, environmental regulations, range of homes allowed, time, and quality control to name a few, with comments regarding Labor’s expansion of First Home Buyers Guarantee indicating a potential rise in prices to accommodate.

“It’s getting harder and harder for young people to get into the market, but every time the government tries to manipulate the market, say the government puts in an incentive of 10%, what you generally find is the market moves up 10% to compensate.” Noted Andrew.

The implication is that the proposed solutions would only further the housing crisis, simply shifting the price margins while expanding the skills and supply shortage. On the supply issue, Andrew summarised the dilemma; 

“Local builders and industries are pretty flat out at the moment. Markets are driven by supply and demand, there are only so many builders that can only build so many homes per year. Something has to give.” 

Chris expanded on this, saying; 

“It’s about weighing up supply, affordability, and the market. It’s no good guaranteeing quality and not supplying it. It’s all linked”

Andrew also expanded on some of the other difficulties faced by agents and builders, first addressing environmental damages and checks, including; “Bushfire regulations, flood regulations and environmental regulations”, before then commenting on the issue of lot sizes, something Andrew believes if changed would allow for greater diversity in home prices and sizes; 

“There are only so many houses you can build in a year”. “The minimum lot size is 700 square metres. Some people like 2000, older people like 400. If you want to deliver affordable housing, making the blocks smaller will allow for smaller more affordable housing, there’s a solution. Having a diverse range of lots – what you’re looking for, what I’m looking for and what my parents are looking for are three different things. You’ve gotta be able to accommodate different tastes and budgets.” He said.

On the subject of smaller homes potentially leading to cheaper prices, Chris noted some developments and projects for cheaper townhouses, however, the ‘red tape’ of continual checklists means it will be a long time before these can be developed.

“We have the ability to bring houses to the market, but say I have a project now that’s been zoned, I honestly don’t think I’d get it to the market for another two years. We’re allowing two years to get through Council, then about another six months to build”, commented Chris. 

Rising interest rates were also noted as something preventing people from buying homes, with buyers unsure of how much their loan repayments will change, and when. Offering a similar solution to Andrew’s, Chris proposes; 

 “I think we just need to release more land to builders and clear some of that red tape, but it’s easier said than done”

Summarising the sentiment shared between Chris and Andrew, and the solution, Chris concludes that; 

“The quicker we can get things on the market, the cheaper they’ll be. Supply is short which forces prices up”.

Griffin Palen