This bill will put an end to the abuse of sunset clauses by unscrupulous developers and it will help buyers and homeowners; but the Government can and must go further to change the culture that sacrifices our communities for greed and profit.
The Conveyancing Amendment (Sunset Clauses) Bill 2015 seeks to prevent developers from unreasonably rescinding off the plan contracts for residential lots under sunset clauses.
The intention of sunset clauses is to protect vendors and buyers in what is currently a white hot and volatile property market. The prospect of buying a home or apartment in Sydney, particularly in the inner west, is a daunting one for young buyers and families looking to enter the market.
Most people, young people particularly, feel locked out of the market. When I speak to many young residents across my electorate of Summer Hill or indeed my friends across Sydney it is clear that many of them feel that they may never own their own home.
Home ownership, which was once the cornerstone of the Australian dream, is now nothing more than that, a dream that few will realise. For many of the young buyers who can pull together a deposit, buying apartments off the plan is not merely a choice; it represents the only choice. For these buyers, the sunset clause is a critical protection. Sunset clauses ensure apartments are completed to an acceptable standard within an acceptable time frame and, critically, that developers deliver what the buyer has paid for. For property developers, sunset clauses lock in capital and assure swift payment at the completion of the project.
Unfortunately, recent stories suggest sunset clauses are being manipulated by unscrupulous developers for profit and gain at the expense of many already stretched young and vulnerable buyers. I, like many in this place and those contributing to the debate, have been alarmed by reports suggesting developers are purposefully running over time to invoke sunset clauses and rescind contracts, only to put the apartments back on the market with dramatically increased margins. I am also alarmed at stories of buyers discovering at final inspections that the one-bedroom apartment they purchased off the plan is missing the bedroom. It is clear that cracking down on greedy and unscrupulous developers is critical to restoring fairness and equity to Sydney's housing market and I hope this bill goes some of the way to doing just that.
I take this opportunity to make clear that this reform cannot come at the expense of other reforms to level the playing field and I am concerned that in most other respects the Government is creating a developer's paradise. The community is rightly appalled at the Government's recent changes to strata management laws that effectively allow people to compulsorily acquire the homes of their neighbours. These laws will impact disastrously the elderly, families and most vulnerable in our community who will be forced to sell and be left without the means to buy again in their communities. These strata law changes undermine the basic tenets of property ownership and strengthen the hand of developers, who will be able to more easily purchase apartment blocks, turf out residents who do not wish to sell and flip their homes for a profit.
Residents in my electorate are rightly appalled by these changes and the uncertainty that they bring. Similarly, residents are concerned and appalled by the Government's draft plans for the Sydenham to Bankstown urban renewal corridor, which allows up to nine-storeys-plus—a one-size-fits-all to development—up to 400 metres away from existing train stations. Residents in my electorate are concerned the plans amount to a blank cheque for developers, rezoning swathes of neighbourhoods with no attempt to levy developers for community infrastructure, green space or, most importantly, affordable housing. If the Government has any hesitation that its plans have sparked land speculation, I invite the Government to visit my electorate and speak to the many residents who have had developers knocking on their doors; in fact, tossing business cards over their back fences.
I invite the Government to speak with the elderly woman who visited my office in tears to explain that she had lived in her home with her siblings for more than 50 years—the home her parents and grandparents had lived in—and was terrified after developers banged on her door to tell her they had bought the rest of the street and she had to sell. I invite the Government to speak with the Save Dully Action Group, a group of concerned residents that has serious questions about the proposed redevelopments that is demanding the heritage homes and beautiful neighbourhood be preserved for future generations. We need density that allows for growth, but which is smart, sustainable and sympathetic to the unique character of our suburbs. That is a significant challenge, but it is one that can be met only if we balance growth with liveability, and balance the needs of developers with the needs of the community.
This bill will put an end to the abuse of sunset clauses by unscrupulous developers and it will help buyers and homeowners; but the Government can and must go further to change the culture that sacrifices our communities for greed and profit. The Government must better protect the most vulnerable in our community by allowing for greater housing affordability and protecting the rights of tenants and buyers. Its plans for greater density must acknowledge why our suburbs are great and worth living in. We need density that protects heritage and green space, provides services and a comprehensive public transport system, and puts people before profit. Critically, developers must be held accountable. That is why the Labor Opposition and I support the bill as a critical step in the right direction. However, I strongly contend that the Government has much more to do.