Jenny Leong expresses concern on the Property Tax (First Home Buyer Choice) Bill 2022

I add to the contribution of my Greens colleague the member for Balmain on the Property Tax (First Home Buyer Choice) Bill 2022, and offer The Greens' concerns about this legislation and debate in the public arena. I indicate that The Greens in this Chamber will be opposing the bill and the Government's attempt to rush it through in the final weeks of sittings before an election. I note that while The Greens support a widespread planned transition from stamp duty to land tax, this is not a blanket support that means anything dressed up as an attempt to transition us from stamp duty to land tax is something we will support. We cannot support this bill in its current form. The proposal to commence replacing stamp duty with land tax is a hugely consequential decision for this State and warrants particular scrutiny. It should not have been brought to the Parliament at the last minute with the expectation that it would just be voted through within the week in the dying days of this parliamentary term.

When it comes to land tax itself, land values reflect social value. Places close to jobs, infrastructure and amenity have high values because of our collective—not individual—efforts and also because of the value we gain from nature. More of those benefits should be retained in the commons to allow all of us to enjoy them. But if they are privatised, those gaining individually should contribute more to the collective pool. A good land tax would reduce upward pressure on house prices and speculation in capital gains, and provide revenue for more collective investment, creating a virtuous cycle. This tax and this legislation do not do that. It is not a real transition from stamp duty to land tax because it is removed at the point of sale. It does not even keep pace with land values.

However, those examples are symptoms of a broader failure to provide a realistic pathway to a good land tax. A good land tax would provide a secure and growing tax base to fund health, education and investment in housing. This proposal reduces revenue and is explicitly temporary. A good land tax would favour those who live in and use land rather than those that hold it speculatively, yet this land tax does not apply to the big wealthy investors—and it is hard to see how it ever would. A good land tax would capture the surge in value that comes from our collective investment in creating high-quality community infrastructure in our local neighbourhoods. This tax has an explicit cap to prevent that because it would be inequitable to do so for some new home buyers without addressing the windfall gains enjoyed by those already in the market. This reform is not really a land tax reform at all, in fact. It is really just a complicated way to allow first home buyers to pay stamp duty instalments, which may have some benefits but is not a big reform. Instead, it suggests that the Government has put the real reform in the too‑hard basket and has come back with what in effect is a subsidy to first home buyers.

Let us turn our attention to the money. The Government would make a much bigger difference to housing affordability by urgently providing more social housing. The legislation before members tonight indicates that the Liberal‑Nationals Government is prepared to put a $775 million hole in the State budget for this reform. In all likelihood, putting $775 million directly into social housing would have a much greater impact on the affordability of housing across the State and assist those most in need of support when it comes to the housing crisis we are facing.

Let us take a minute to consider the bill the Government is creating for $775 million, and the decision to marginally subsidise the cost of home ownership for first home buyers with that hole in the budget. For $775 million, imagine what we could do with public and social housing in New South Wales. We could build 3,817 new dwellings—enough to house all the people on the public housing waiting list on the Central Coast. What is the Government's priority? The University of New South Wales City Futures Research Centre estimates a capital cost of $203,000 per social housing dwelling, excluding Commonwealth rent assistance payments of $59,000 per dwelling. If the cost of Commonwealth rent assistance per dwelling is included, 2,958 dwellings could be delivered—still enough houses to house all the people on the public housing waiting list in the Northern Rivers.

Where are the priorities of this Liberal-Nationals Government? I remind members that The Greens are supportive of the idea of a transition from stamp duty to a good land tax, but that is not what this legislation is. It will create a $775 million hole in the New South Wales budget, based on the Government's own projections—money that could be used immediately to deliver social and affordable housing for those who are most in need and desperate for housing solutions in this State. With that money we could build 1,000 new and 1,300 upgraded homes for Aboriginal families who are in need of housing support.

There is so much that this Government could do to tackle the dire housing crisis head on and, instead, it is rushing through this half-baked reform to allow first home buyers to pay their stamp duty in instalments. With the projected $775 million hole in the budget, this Government could actually stump up, invest in and upgrade 39,000 existing dwellings to ensure they are fit for purpose for aging residents or those with mobility issues. All the figures I have just cited around investment in social and public housing are based on looking at the costings and the figures that the Government identifies as needed for public housing, Aboriginal housing and maintenance announcements it made in the 2022 budget. This could have been a massive opportunity to transition the State from stamp duty to an equitable and progressive land tax scheme. But instead the Government is rushing through in haste legislation that will not set up this State for genuine transition.

The State Labor Party is not considering the complex issues but offering a few-words slogan that attempts to create fear. We need to have a serious conversation about how we are dealing with this housing crisis, and that involves making a genuine transition from stamp duty to land tax. It does not involve subsidising and causing significant issues at a macro level in the housing market by introducing this so‑called first home buyer choice scheme. This so-called "choice" is not the answer. The need for reform such as this is absolutely essential. There are so many who agree. As my Greens colleague the member for Balmain said, The Greens have long supported a well-managed and equitable transition from stamp duty to land tax.

We have seen the benefit of shepherding stamp duty reform under the Labor-Greens Government in the Australian Capital Territory. It is disappointing that in New South Wales the Government has not sought input from The Greens. We have not had a genuine dialogue about a transition plan. Instead, we have more politicking and less solutions to the housing crisis for people who are in such desperate need. This reform must be well planned and equitable. We cannot allow unintended consequences for first home buyers that could see purchasing a home driven further out of reach by a poorly designed transition mechanism. Until we address the fact that investors and property developers—many of whom sit in this Chamber with a list of properties a mile long—are cashing in on the trauma and stress of two million people in New South Wales who are trying to make ends meet in the rental market and until we address those factors that allow us to treat houses as a commodity at the expense of people having a place to call home, we will not see any real improvements in the housing market or in the housing affordability crisis.

I acknowledge the work of my colleague in the other place Abigail Boyd in securing an inquiry into this legislation. I note that The Greens will seek to amend the bill once that inquiry has concluded. I urge everybody not to get into a debate about taxation scare tactics but instead work collaboratively across party lines to try to solve the housing unaffordability crisis that people in this State are facing.

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