Franchise boss warns government against ‘major reform’

A NSW-based real estate group has warned against implementing negative gearing reform without a full understanding of all the variables at play.

Laing+Simmons managing director Leanne Pilkington welcomes ideas aimed at promoting affordability, but said that restricting negative gearing to new properties and grandfathering tax treatment for existing investments raises questions – the answers to which are not yet clear, she added.

“While new supply has had an impact on the rental market, including in Sydney, where rental growth for apartments has stalled, vacancy rates still remain extremely low across the board,” Ms Pilkington explained.

“Greater stability in rents has been a welcome relief to tenants, for so long subjected to hike after hike, yet Labor’s policy could potentially reverse the situation and exacerbate renters’ pain all over again,” she said.

“Firstly, owners of existing properties who are already using a negative gearing strategy will be reluctant to sell, knowing they will not be able to access the same tax treatment any longer unless they buy something new.

“But this would be problematic, as prices for new stock would naturally inflate as demand is heightened among those investors looking to access negative gearing. As such, the strength of investment may soften further.”

Ms Pilkington fears this could lead to a scenario where vacancy rates drop even further, on top of the most recent tightening trend, putting renewed pressure on rents and jeopardising the ability of tenants to accumulate a deposit for their first home.

“We see too many 'what ifs' associated with this policy at this stage, so caution seems to be the most appropriate approach,” she said.

Labor’s negative gearing policy, designed to unlock flow-on economic benefits associated with supporting new supply, will nonetheless have a variety of other impacts perhaps not yet fully explored with the appropriate modelling, Ms Pilkington said.

“No major reform should be implemented without comprehensive and detailed modelling, and the various unknowns with this Labor policy seem to warrant further investigation,” she said.

“History is clear on the importance of comprehensive planning. For instance, when the vendor exit duty tax was introduced some years ago, without the appropriate consideration and number crunching, it had a significantly detrimental impact.

“The vendor exit duty stalled economic activity and failed to reward those who had taken the initiative to invest for their future security."

She added: “This is the reason most people invest in property in the first place, so we should ensure we don’t make the same mistake again with negative gearing.”

[Related: Franchise hires and promotes key staff]

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