How to repair Australia's property sector

Lower interest rates are already boosting the property market, but it's not enough to bring the sector up to scratch. Zoning requirements, council responsibility and immigration intake must be overhauled.

At last we can see some improvement in the property market in Sydney and to a lesser extent in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The reason is definitely the lowering of interest rates. It is too early to say by how much the properties rose, but the effect is definite.

The migrant intake must grow by at least half a million people per annum. It is impossible to run a huge continent with 23 million people. It does not matter whether Prime Minister Gillard or Tony Abbott will rule the country. With migration rising there will be more need for accommodation and we must build more.

But until councils become more responsible and approve viable projects on time it will be very difficult. The pressure is on apartments in central areas. It is irrelevant that many blocks are zoned for cottage building. The movement is away from them to apartments. And much land is already zoned for cottages.

Councils think that people care whether there are tall buildings or lower buildings. People who buy the apartments prefer taller buildings because they allow more light and afford views and are cheaper to run than lower ones – which require more lofts, more stairwells, and more security, all adding to the upkeep.

We see many empty stores. But councils insist that we often include shops and offices to create work. In fact because there is already a glut of offices new ones should not be forced on developers. At best all that will happen is that older shops and offices will become vacant.

Every council must have people who will ensure that the rules are such that viable projects must be achievable.

It is no use making rules which do not take into account the viability. The person in council who will be responsible for viability must be equally responsible as the mayor and the manager.

On the tourism side, our serviced apartments are doing well. But we must have more capacity in the airports – not in 20 years, but now. Gold Coast Airport, which is very new, was out of date on the day it was completed. Today, tourists go to Brisbane from overseas and then catch buses to the Gold Coast. If we want tourism then airports must be made to cater for tomorrow. At least with aeroplanes we are as quick as anyone. We know that we are very slow with our trains.

Harry Triguboff is Managing Director of property group Meriton.

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