Houses at a premium as developers eye the skies

QUEANBEYAN is increasingly becoming a city of apartments with developers building up into the CBD skyline and stand-alone houses now at a premium. Local real estate agents say that's been a result of recent changes to government incentives for first home buyers coupled with a limited supply of land in town, more so than an overwhelming desire for apartment living.

Development applications for multi-unit dwellings in Queanbeyan outnumbered those for separate houses by almost four to one in the last financial year, and more than nine to one the previous year according to Queanbeyan City Council figures.

And the most recent census figures reveal that almost a third of Queanbeyan residences are town houses, apartments or units, almost 10 per cent higher than the national average.

Local LJ Hooker principal Michael Dyer said the recent NSW Government decision to dump the $7000 First Home Owner Grant and end stamp duty exemptions for first home buyers purchasing existing homes meant younger buyers had little choice outside of new apartments.

"First home buyers would traditionally purchase at the bottom end of the market and move their way up over a period of time, but with the removal of the [first home buyer's] grant and the stamp duty exemption off established properties, a lot of kids are being forced to purchase apartments," Mr Dyer said.

"I know that there are people who would buy freestanding houses as opposed to apartments, but unfortunately there's just not the land available in Queanbeyan now. So the only thing the developers can do is sub-divide the airspace."

And with no government incentives to purchase established dwellings, Mr Dyer said Queanbeyan buyers were opting for the higher returns and lower maintenance costs of new property.

"There's some fairly significant tax incentives, depreciation wise, for people to buy new stock," he said.

"And they [the NSW Government] did that deliberately to boost the construction industry, but I think a lot of people are missing out, because a lot of people don't want to live in apartments."

Another major local real estate director, Shane McNamee of McNamee Real Estate, said new apartments were still proving attractive for buyers, particularly younger couples without children.

"Over the Christmas period, we found there was a surge in off-the-plan sales and also new properties that have already been completed," Mr McNamee said.

"I would say that there's a healthy demand for property at the moment. It's not quite as bullish as what we're seeing in Sydney and Melbourne, but it's a very healthy marketplace."

And he said developers were favouring multi-unit complexes around the Queanbeyan CBD due to a scarcity of available land for new housing within the city.

"As far as Queanbeyan town is concerned, all the redevelopment tends to be knock down/rebuilding single properties, but [rebuilding] multi-dwelling properties.

"Most of the development that's taken place over the last decade has been finding sites with the appropriate zoning and turning one house site into ten townhouses, or two house sites into 20 units or something like that."

Meanwhile, Mr Dyer said the ratio of apartments to houses should settle in the coming years as new housing comes online at Googong and Tralee.

Qbn population could reach 100,000

By Kim Pham

QUEANBEYAN'S population is set to grow to 100,000 in the next 25 years, according to recent estimates from Queanbeyan City Council.

While, the 2011 Census indicated that the population was set to almost double by 2031 to approximately 75,000, the council has also accounted for a possible amalgamation.

Queanbeyan Council figures are based on the possible amalgamation between Queanbeyan City and Palerang Councils. If the two councils merged it would be expected that the town boundaries would change to include parts of Palerang and possibly Yass Valley.

Queanbeyan mayor Tim Overall quoted the figure in last September's ordinary meeting of council agenda, and wrote: "Queanbeyan LGA will

be a bustling and vibrant community with a population of some 100,000 people and be a major social and economic contributor to the region."

Cr Overall told The Queanbeyan Age the estimate also accounted for residents living in the townships of Googong and Tralee.

"It's very much a staged growth with 400-500 new dwellings per year as Googong and Tralee reach primary development stage," he said.

A decision on an amalgamation won’t be reached until 2017, but was recommended again in this month's final report from the NSW Government-appointed Independent Review Panel into local government.

While Cr Overall would not comment on the broader consequences of an amalgamation, preferring to wait for the final decision, he said council were mindful of the city's rapid and impending growth.

"The key challenge is population growth and residential expansion. It's fundamental to our city and our commercial centres to maintain pace and become self-sustaining in terms of a business, community and entertainment precinct. With a self-sustaining city there's less reliance on Canberra," he said.

"The other challenge is maintaining Queanbeyan's country feel. We don't want to become just another regional city, but remain a community with a friendly-feel, pedestrian-friendly CBD and neighbourhood centres."

Cr Overall said stage two of the CBD beautification was just one example of the council working towards creating a more modern and self-sustaining city.

"This isn't a revival but a brand new production and that's exciting. As much as I'm familiar with the play and story, it's also about wiping the slate clean and creating something new."

A Tale of Two Cities will be at The Q from February 5 - February 16. Tickets can be purchased by calling 6285 6290 or visiting www.theq.net.au.

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