top of page

Housing Choices

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Ms Lee for bringing this very important motion before the Assembly. To quote Aussie band Men at Work, Australia has for many decades been ‘the land of plenty’. For many of us – and especially those born here – the sight of empty shelves at the supermarket over the past two years has been an important reminder of just how lucky we are to live in a nation generally characterised by enviable levels of peace, stability and prosperity.

Mercifully, food shortages have mostly been temporary. In some cases, they have been unavoidable, caused, for example, by disruptions to production or supply chains. In other cases, shortages have been completely unnecessary, caused by irrational behaviour, such as the hoarding of toilet paper.

Here in Canberra, we are currently experiencing another kind of completely avoidable shortage, one that has already been allowed to go on too long and which is similarly created by irrational and even irresponsible behaviour. This is the shortage of housing choices.

I wish to review five facts:

Fact one: In the ACT, the government holds monopoly control over the release of land for new homes.

Fact two: the ACT Government’s current Indicative Land Release Program dictates that approximately 70 per cent of the land for new housing over the next five years will be for high-density dwellings – in other words, apartment blocks.

Fact three: according to the government’s own Winton Report from May 2015, this land release does not match demand. As one can clearly see in Chart B of the Report, only 7.3 per cent of Canberrans at the time of the survey expressed a desire to live in an apartment. To emphasise, that’s 7.3 per cent who wish to live in high-density housing, not 70 per cent. Dictating that the supply of apartments in the territory will be ten times greater than established demand is absurd. The only explanation is that Labor and Greens unitedly believe it is their job to control both where and how people will live.

Fact four: when supply does not meet demand, prices rise. As stated in the government’s own budget review last month, if demand for land is higher than supply, prices go up, and the only solution – assuming the government wants a solution – is to increase supply.[1] This expert advice from ACT Treasury underscores just how ridiculous Mr Barr sounded during recent annual reports hearings when he argued that his government’s land release program has little impact on the territory’s overall house prices, claiming that the program, quote, ‘has influence on the price of housing [only] in the areas in which land is released’.[2] I understand that Mr Barr studied both economics and economic history at the ANU, but that was nearly 30 years ago. Perhaps it is time for a refresher course on the basics of supply and demand?

Fact five: it is entirely within the power of the current ACT Government to alter its Land Release Program to better align land supply with demand.

This motion calls on the government to do just that. Not supporting this motion means that Labor and the Greens do not care whether Canberrans can access the kinds of housing that they want and need. Needs are diverse, but there are very significant reasons why many Canberra families would not choose to live in small apartments. Whilst many of these reasons are intuitive, academic research increasingly supports the reluctance many people – and especially families – feel towards high-density living.

For example, in 2019, researchers at Deakin University launched a study to help address what they described as ‘the lack of existing research on the social impact of high-rise apartment living on families with children’.[3] They concluded that, quote, ‘high-rise living makes social life difficult for young families’. Living in an apartment block higher than two storeys, in fact, results in fewer social interactions for both children and adults, researchers found.

Another recent Deakin University study found linkages between apartment living and several ‘negative health implications’ in children, including obesity, low vitamin D levels, impaired social skills, increased distress, and poor social and emotional development.[4]

Senior Australian architect Natalia Krysiak in an article published last month observed that ‘apartments are often not designed with families in mind, and when families do move into them, it has profound implications’.[5] Apartment living, Krysniak noted, affects parenting styles, which can negatively affect a child’s development. In addition, Krysniak pointed out that, when families are forced into apartments, parents often then choose to have fewer children – an outcome that no doubt pleases the Greens.

This is the party, after all, whose extreme policy positions include encouraging ‘community debate’ about how to fix ‘the current level of population’ in Australia.[6] Greens patriarch and former party leader Bob Brown recently stated publicly that, quote, the ‘human herd [is] eating the planet’ and, quoting him once again, that ‘a sensible population policy … would aim for a naturally decreasing population’.[7] The Greens in this Assembly certainly understand that forcing families into high-density living is one indirect way of achieving their goal of population control.

Whilst artificially limiting housing choices in Canberra disproportionately harms families, research suggests that the negative impacts of high-density living can potentially affect everyone. Researchers at Edith Cowan University recently reported that, quote, ‘high-rise apartment buildings have long been associated with the poor mental health of their residents’.[8] Studies from both Germany and Scotland have found that residents who live above the fourth floor of an apartment block experience, quote, ‘twice the number of symptoms of poor mental health as those on lower floors and [in] detached houses’. In addition, residents with existing mental health conditions who live in apartments are ‘more likely to experience psychiatric illness’. The correlation between high-density living and poor mental health is so clear, in fact, that researchers at RMIT University are currently carrying out a multi-year study to consider design improvements to help lessen such impacts.[9]

Clearly, some people, including families, want to live in apartments and enjoy doing so. I honour that choice. I likewise support those Canberrans who want desperately to live in a townhouse or a detached house instead. As academic research conclusively shows, this desire is not irrational, nor is it selfish, as those opposite always insist whenever anyone tries to make a choice for their family that doesn’t align with the radical Greens agenda. The ACT Greens, it must be remembered, have spent years advocating for better living conditions for chickens but fully support a land release policy that is forcing Canberra families to live crammed into high-rise battery cages. And ACT Labor are so desperate for power, it seems, that they are willing to be held hostage by their radical coalition partners.

Rejecting this motion will also make clear that neither Labor nor the Greens care if choking land supply causes Canberra house prices to rise. And in fact, Madam Speaker, despite empty slogans like ‘A Home for All’, according to Productivity Commission data, these same two parties have overseen a nearly 3 per cent decline in the number of public housing dwellings over just the past four years.[10] It is a very real possibility that they are quite happy to see house prices in Canberra keep going up at a rate higher than the national average.[11]

I’m certain that my Labor and Greens colleagues can comprehend their own Budget Review, and therefore they know what it states: that, quote, ‘in the absence of a supply response’, ‘upward pressure on prices … would see an increase to Government revenues’.[12] More money for government; less for everyone else.

High house prices, of course, inevitably lead to higher rents. Figures released by CoreLogic just this week show that, over the first quarter of 2022, rents increased faster in Canberra than in any other capital city, surging 27 per cent more than the national average.[13] What a distinction! Under Labor and the Greens’ ideologically driven mismanagement, the ACT was already reeling from the harshest rents in Australia, and now families in Canberra will be slugged even further.

Madam Speaker, this motion is a moment of decision. In just a few minutes, a division will be called. Along with my Liberal colleagues, I will be voting for Canberrans to have access to the housing choices that they want and need. In the process, I will be voting against knowingly and intentionally pricing residents out of the detached and mid-density housing markets.

Will we Liberals once again stand alone on the side of Canberra’s families and others who desperately want access to housing choice? It doesn’t have to be that way. There is an alternative to intentionally restricting land supply knowing that it will put upward pressure on prices and increase government revenue.

I commend this motion as originally drafted to the Assembly. Thank you.

[1] ACT Government, ‘Budget 2021–22: Budget Review’, p. 105. [2] ‘How the government sets the market up to fail home buyers’, City News, 30 Mar. 2022, [3] ‘High-rise living makes social life difficult for young families: Deakin study’, media release, Deakin University, 25 July 2019, [4] ‘Deakin study evaluates impact of high-rise parenting on children’s health’, media release, Deakin University, 27 July 2018. [5] ‘Australian families are giving up on the suburban dream – but are new apartments up to the job?’, Guardian, 12 Feb. 2022, [6] ‘Population’,, accessed 5 Apr. 2022. [7] Bob Brown, ‘Talking Point: Human herd eating the planet’, 27 June 2015, [8] Danica-Lea Larcombe, Eddie van Etten, Alan Logan, Susan L. Prescott, and Pierre Horwitz, ‘High-Rise Apartments and Urban Mental Health – Historical and Contemporary Views’, Challenges, 10:2 (2019), [9] ‘Optimising apartment design policy to equitably enhance mental health’, RMIT University Centre for Urban Research, [10] ‘Trashed, empty homes taunt people waiting years for help’, City News, 30 Mar. 2022, [11] ‘Canberra house prices increase modestly in March while Queanbeyan values surge, CoreLogic property data shows’, Canberra Times, 1 Apr. 2022, [12] ACT Government, ‘Budget 2021–22: Budget Review’, p. 105. [13] ‘Canberra retains position as most expensive rental market in Australia after posting nation’s strongest growth’, Canberra Times, 6 Apr. 2022,


Recent Posts
bottom of page