PCA Questions New Australian Population Strategy

A CONTROVERSIAL new population strategy – which sets no population target at all – has concerned peak property bodies.

The Gillard government’s first population strategy, Sustainable Australia, Sustainable Communities, is “political in nature’ according to the Property Council of Australia chief executive Peter Verwer, who added it contained “little more than motherhood statements, previously announced government initiatives and ongoing government programs.”

“This is not a detailed plan for managing population growth and to describe it as a policy or a strategy would be stretching credibility,” Mr Verwer was quoted as saying in The Australian. “We need to grow our population, which needs taxation revenue to fund vital services,” he added.

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Australian Residential Rental Vacancies on the up as Supply of Stock Surges

RENTAL vacancy levels increased last month according to SQM Research.

For the month, there were 6135 more residences listed for rent, bringing the total to 47,787 nationally. Last April the figure was around 37,000.

Melbourne had the highest rental vacancy rate at 2.6 per cent, according to SQM, while Canberra, the nation’s capital, had the lowest amount of rental stock: 0.6 per cent.

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ASIC Orders Banks to Relax Rules That Restricted Older People From Borrowing

IN A positive move for middle-aged and older Australians, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission has ordered banks to relax rules that restricted borrowing capacity.

On April 23 ASIC announced it clarified responsible lending guidelines introduced in January – which inadvertently resulted in banks and non-bank lenders being rejected credit applications from middle aged people without a substantial retirement egg.

ASIC now says lenders must ask more questions to determine whether a middle aged applicant will be able to repay a 25-year owner occupier mortgage loan, if they are due, for example, to retire in the next decade.

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Australian Residential Rents Tipped to Continue to Rise in 2011

RENTS for houses and apartments are expected to rise this year, as a result of accelerated economic activity, housing shortages and a depressed first home buyers market.

Australian Property Monitors, a property analyst, predicts a steep rise in rents this year, following what was a quarter of growth in March 2011.

According to APM, Sydney apartment rents have increased 7.1 per cent in the past twelve months, followed closely by Adelaide and Canberra.

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One in Four Australians Will Not Make Payments if Rates Rise 0.5 Per Cent: Report

A REPORT by finance giant QBE says one in 10 mortgage holders would not be able to make their repayments if interest rates rise by one quarter of a per cent.

This figure rises to one in four Australians, if interest rates were to rise half a per cent.

The report also says 80 per cent of first home buyers said the property market was overvalued, but one in five said they are still likely to make a purchase in the next six months.

The report, by QBE Lenders Mortgage Insurance, says on average 25 per cent of owner occupiers are suffering mortgage stress, with this figure likely to rise in line with future interest rate rises.

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Sydney, Melbourne on the Radar of Major North American Retailers

AUSTRALIA’s almost uninterrupted strong economic run – which has resulted in an almost uninterrupted consumption binge – is piquing the interest of North America’s major retail businesses.

According to a new report by commercial agency CB Richard Ellis, Sydney and Melbourne (image, Brighton bathing boxes, right) have both ranked in the top 10 most attractive destinations for expansion.

The survey samples 323 global retailers, and 209 cities in 73 countries.

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Cedar Woods Rejects $310 Million Takeover Offer

CEDAR Woods Properties has rejected a $310 million takeover offer, saying that purchase price undervalued the company.

The company confirmed a third party has offered $5.05 per share before being told it was “insufficient”.

“The Cedar Woods’ board has consistently stated that it believes the current (market) value of the company’s projects to be substantially above the value reflected in its share price,” it is reported as saying in The Australian.

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Commercial Property’s Biggest Fundraiser to Peddle Off

THE commercial property sector’s biggest fundraiser is about to peddle off again, though thankfully for the Victorian participants, the weather is looking calmer than last year.

This time, the Chain Reaction bike ride will go national – with a Queensland ride scheduled for May taking participants from Forster, in New South Wales, to Brisbane.

A Victorian ride kicks off from Sydney next Saturday March 12, and concludes in Melbourne on Friday March 18, incorporating the Labour Day public holiday. The 1200 kilometre track will take participants through the Snowy Mountains.

Some 45 riders – representing commercial and residential sectors – are registered to accept donations for the ride this year.

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Devine Limited Goes on Spending Spree

QUEENSLAND based Devine Limited has purchased a 107-unit apartment complex in the fringe Brisbane suburb of Teneriffe, and a 22 hectare standard residential development site in Melton, in Melbourne’s outer west. Marketing for both projects is expected to start this year, according to Devine managing director David Keir who released the company’s financials last week.

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Top End Residential Continues to Grind

AUSTRALIA’s prestige property market appears to still be in deceleration mode.

In Sydney, the Vaucluse mansion being offloaded by the Cattell family has been reduced from $21 million to $18 million. Nearby, property developer Paul Smith sold his Bellevue Hill home for a price believed to be “a heavy discount” to the $14 million he first asked last year.

SQM Research managing director Louis Christoper said the Sydney and Melbourne prestige market are recording modest price falls.

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Google Shelves Controversial Real Estate Listing Initiative

GOOGLE has shelved plans to feature real estate listings within its Google Maps.

The company cited low usage for the feature, which is available in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan.

The feature was launched in 2009, but despite offering free listings, failed to knock off the dominant Australian real estate search engines, realestate.com.au and domain.com.au.

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Canada Now Largest Private Owner of Forestry Land in Australia

THE largest private owner of forestry land in Australia is now a Canadian pension fund.

Alberta Investment Management Corp (AIMCo) has paid $415 million for 252,000 hectares of timber land. The land was offloaded by collapsed managed investment scheme operator, Great Southern.

The price paid is 60 per cent of the land’s value three years ago, and before legislative changes triggered the collapse of two large industry players, including Timbercorp as well as Great Southern.

AIMCo chief executive Leo de Bever told the AFR the group had been working to buy the site for more than a year.

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Surge For Australian Hotel Investments in 2010

INVESTOR demand for Australian hotels surged last year.

Hotel transactions surged 62.3 per cent last year, totalling $1.3 billion, according to JLL Hotels.

Demand for hotel investments was boosted by a strong business travel market which have pushed up room rates and occupancy levels in major capital city markets.

The Ayers Rock Resort was last year’s biggest hotel transaction, selling for $300 million.

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Sydney and Perth Residential Sectors Set to Lead the Nation: Report

THE Sydney and Perth residential sectors may have been the basket case of the country in recent years, but all that is expected to change, according to new research by MacroPlan.

The consultancy expects Sydney and Perth will lead the nation in regard to demand this year, led by increasing incomes, improving business prosperity and a shortage of new residential supply.

MacroPlan also anticipates some regional centres will perform well on the back of the resources boom, population growth and value.

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Office Sector Set to Strengthen in 2011: Report

LAST year, by and large, residential landlords were the investors best able to reap the rewards of a short supply, by boosting their rents.

This year however, may be year of the office landlord.

According to a new report by commercial real estate agency Colliers International, office rental costs are expected to increase in most capital cities, because of a shortage of new supply and an improving economy.

It expects office vacancies to fall in all major CBD office markets expect Brisbane (which already has a high 9.6 per cent vacancy).

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Centro Properties Expected to List $4 Billion Portfolio

CENTRO Properties Group is expected to list for sale a $4 billion portfolio of prime retail assets, as its bankers call for the company to settle its debts.

It’s expected Perth’s Galleria complex, and The Glen, in the south-east Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley will be two of the 40-plus assets offered for sale.

Lend Lease, Colonial First State Global Management and AMP Capital Investors are expected to be in the mix of prospective purchasers, though the sale might also be on an individual shopping centre basis.

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DWPF Pays CDPI $231 Million For Industrial Portfolio

DEXUS Wholesale Property Fund has paid Colonial Direct Property Investment Fund $231 million for a portfolio of 13 industrial portfolios on Australia’s east coast.

The purchase includes eight properties in Sydney, three in Melbourne and two in Brisbane. Some are income producing investments, while others are development sites.

After the acquisition, DWPF’s portfolio allocation will be 57 per cent retail, 32 per cent office and 11 per cent industrial – though the plan is to boost the industrial allocation.

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Lend Lease Announces Agreement With Japan Based Sekisui House

SYDNEY based developer and fund manager Lend Lease has announced an agreement to develop a swag of national, master planned residential and community projects with Japan based Sekisui House.

The arrangement, which is subject to conditions, will see Sekisui acquire a 50 per cent interest in Lend Lease’s controversial 15-level Serrata apartment tower proposal, in Docklands.

Sekisui House will also buy land at Lend Lease’s Hyatt Coolum on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, and a piece of a project at Wentworth Point, near Homebush, in western Sydney.

A copy of Lend Lease’s ASX announcement is below:

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Is Government Scouring Australia For Public Housing Sites?

A MAJOR but confidential Expression of Interest campaign seeking residential rental properties – believed to be for the government’s affiliated affordable and social housing agencies – has closed after almost six months.

The advertisement sought 400 unoccupied dwellings nationally, configured as motel rooms, blocks of flats, disused retirement villages, and clusters of units and houses.

The mystery tenant is offering 12 month leases with renewal options of up to five years on a case by case basis.

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Federal Government Continuing to Buy Commission Flat Sites

THE federal and state governments are continuing to buy development sites and vacant properties that it can convert into public housing.

It has recently acquired two prominent properties in the seaside hamlet of Wonthaggi, about 132 kilometres south-east of Melbourne.

In the highest profile deal, the government outmuscled developers and operators for the former Golf Links Hotel, which is set to be redeveloped into a major rooming house.

At another site at 7 Mortimer Street, near the Wonthaggi town centre, a vacant block offering picturesque views over the Wonthaggi Golf Course and Bass Strait is also set to make way for a new commission flat complex.

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