New Property Levy on Mornington Peninsula Aims to Tackle Housing Crisis

The Mornington Peninsula Shire, encompassing affluent areas such as Portsea, Sorrento, and Flinders, is setting a bold precedent with its proposal to introduce a 3.3 per cent levy on all new property developments. This initiative, aimed at funding social housing, reflects a growing trend across Victoria to address the acute need for affordable housing through localized fiscal measures.

Rising Fiscal Measures in Victoria

Amidst economic recovery efforts post-COVID-19, the Victorian state government has revised its tax strategies, notably introducing a 1.75 per cent levy on new housing developments that begin in 2024. This levy is intended to facilitate the creation of up to 17,000 social housing units over the next ten years, demonstrating a strategic approach to leveraging property development for social benefit.

These changes come as Victoria continues to lag behind other states in the proportion of social housing, sparking a critical need for innovative funding solutions that do not overly burden the taxpayers.

Economic Repercussions and Social Implications

The proposed levy by the Mornington Peninsula could potentially influence property prices, as developers may pass these additional costs onto home buyers. This has sparked a significant debate within the community, balancing between fostering economic growth and ensuring the social welfare of residents.

The region has experienced a significant 31% hike in rental prices over the past year, adding stress to an already tight housing market, and highlighting the disparity between the availability of short-term holiday rentals and long-term housing needs.

The Path Forward

As the proposal moves into the community consultation phase, the reactions and feedback from residents and investors will be pivotal. This phase will not only determine the level of support for the levy but could also set a tone for similar measures in other regions grappling with similar issues.

The Mornington Peninsula’s approach reflects a broader movement towards more sustainable and equitable urban development strategies. How this initiative is received could signal whether such fiscal strategies will find favour in other high-value regions in Australia facing similar challenges.

In essence, the success of the social housing levy will hinge on achieving a delicate balance between economic development incentives and the imperative to provide affordable housing solutions. As discussions unfold, the Mornington Peninsula could become a case study in addressing housing affordability through innovative local government initiatives.

The coming months will indeed be crucial as they will reveal the broader community’s stance on balancing economic interests with social imperatives in tackling one of the most pressing issues facing regions across Australia today.

While the proposed social housing levy on new property developments in the Mornington Peninsula aims to address the critical need for affordable housing, there are several potential pitfalls and drawbacks that need careful consideration to provide a balanced view.

Potential Pitfalls of the Social Housing Levy

Increased Property Prices: The most immediate concern is the potential for the levy to increase property prices. Developers might pass the additional costs incurred from the levy onto home buyers, making housing even less affordable for potential homeowners in an already expensive market.

Economic Disincentive for Developers: By imposing additional costs on new developments, the levy could discourage property development in the region. This could lead to a decrease in the overall housing supply, contradicting the goal of increasing housing availability.

Unintended Market Distortions: The levy could also lead to market distortions where developers might opt to invest in regions without such levies, thereby reducing the economic growth potential of the area and possibly leading to a decline in job opportunities in local construction and related industries.

Equity Concerns: Critics argue that the levy places the financial burden of solving public social housing needs on a narrow segment of the community—namely, developers and new home buyers—rather than distributing it more broadly across all taxpayers. This approach could be viewed as inequitable, particularly if the increased costs are passed on to first-time home buyers who are already struggling with affordability.

Balancing the View

While the drawbacks highlight significant concerns, the intent behind the levy—to fund social housing developments—is critical for the long-term sustainability and social fabric of the region. The lack of affordable housing has profound social implications, including increased homelessness and economic instability for low-income families. The levy aims to address these issues by providing necessary funds to increase the stock of affordable housing.

Moreover, the levy might encourage developers to incorporate more diverse housing solutions into their projects, promoting inclusivity and diversity in housing options. Over time, this could help stabilize the housing market by increasing supply and offering more affordable options.

In conclusion, while the social housing levy presents certain economic challenges and fairness issues, it also offers a targeted approach to address the severe lack of affordable housing on the Mornington Peninsula. Stakeholders must weigh these factors carefully, considering both the immediate economic impacts and the long-term social benefits. Ongoing dialogue, adjustments to the proposal based on stakeholder feedback, and careful monitoring of the levy’s impacts will be essential to ensure that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

*Tony Anamourlis (CTA) (SSA) is a tax lawyer who contributes to various publications on issues of tax and estate planning