Greens Support Legislation Protecting People Who Buy Property Off the Plan

Today the Greens supported legislation preventing developers from terminating contracts for financial gain using sunset clause provisions on property bought off the plan. 


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [4.45 p.m.]: I express The Greens' support for the Conveyancing Amendment (Sunset Clauses) Bill 2015 and the protection that it offers to people who buy property off the plan. As Fair Trading outlined, concern is emerging that certain developers may be lawfully terminating contracts specifically for financial gain using sunset clause provisions. There may be instances when a developer deliberately delays a project in order to activate the sunset clause. This is a serious problem and yet another example of how greedy developers are attempting to profit from our neighbourhoods and our communities. It is a particular concern for people who live in the inner city.

A number of massive developments are occurring in my electorate of Newtown. Newtown is surrounded by UrbanGrowth projects—the Parramatta Road Urban Renewal Project at one side of the electorate, the Central to Eveleigh UrbanGrowth project on the other side and WestConnex at the southern end of King Street—so we know all too well the risks of development in the smallest electorate in the State, comprising 11 square kilometres. We are surrounded by developers and developer greed, and the community knows the risks associated with large developments and allowing developers to put their profits before the interests of the community.

We also know about the huge rises in the cost of housing in inner-city areas. The big risk is that we will lose forever the diversity of our inner-city communities. Unless we move to address and combat developers putting profit before everything else when it comes to housing and developments in the inner city, soon only the uber wealthy—people on salaries akin to those of members of Parliament or greater—will be able to afford to live in Sydney. Instead, the artisans and the creative types in our communities and the students who want to live close to their campuses at the University of Sydney or the University of Technology Sydney will be pushed out of inner-city areas. The Greens will do whatever we can to prevent that.

This bill is timely as it addresses one element of that issue. My office has been contacted by a number of individuals who have raised serious concerns about this very matter. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Xin, a 28-year-old medical doctor and a prospective constituent of the Newtown electorate. I say "prospective" because Xin was due to move into a unit in Newtown that is close to her workplace by the end of this year. Unfortunately, Xin is one of the many Sydneysiders who bought into a new development off the plan, investing her hard-earned savings in the deposit, knowing she would have to wait a few years before she could move in. But Xin did not expect that that wait would be dragged out to the point where her unit could be taken from her.

Xin is now facing the prospect of the vendor rescinding her contract by means of the sunset clause. She paid a deposit for her unit in May 2013 and at the start of this year the original sunset date of 30 June 2015 was extended to 31 December 2015. In August she received a letter notifying her that she could rescind the contract. She replied declining to rescind the contract, and requested a further extension of the sunset date, if need be. She has not received any reply from the developer. Under the existing legislation the vendor can move to rescind the contract against Xin's wishes. Xin has visited the construction site in Newtown from time to time since she was told earlier this year that the sunset date had been extended. She said that work appears to have stopped in about March, when the second floor of the building was under construction. She is genuinely concerned and suspects that the vendor intended to use the sunset clause to rescind the contract all along.

Increasing property prices in the heart of Newtown over the past two years would lead any developer acting in the interests of the bottom line and not of the community to take away someone's chance to move to our wonderful suburb in order that the developer could gain more money. The person I have spoken about has been denied the opportunity to move close to her job as a medical professional because the value of the property has increased significantly over the past two years. I express my support for the swift action of the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation in introducing this bill. I ask the Minister to clarify whether any support, assistance or guidance can be provided to those who were facing this problem prior to this legislation being enacted and its provisions taking effect.


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