Housing is a staple of life, providing both shelter and a base from which Australians can participate in society.
It is for this reason that the recent discovery that nearly $45 million of charges levied to provide community infrastructure has been borrowed by Lake Macquarie City Council to 'prop-up' other local government spending is deplorable and should provide the chance to review how infrastructure is funded in this state.
While some people think these levies, commonly referred as development levies, are funded by the developer, the truth is they are paid for by new home buyers. As a result they add a significant upfront sum to the cost of new homes and have a direct impact on housing affordability.
The announcement that some councils may be choosing to borrow from these funds for purposes outside the infrastructure they were collected for may not be legal and must mean councils are collecting more than they need or not spending it on the things they promise would be delivered. Either way it's not right.
Last year 957 residential dwelling approvals occurred in Lake Macquarie, that's 957 home owners that paid for their local infrastructure and are now paying interest on their home loans which included paying for these levies. If council has taken this action, then the result is that many thousands of new home buyers are now paying interest for 20-30 years on borrowings given to council from funds that are reportedly not being used for up to 20 years.
The community should be rightfully outraged that a generation of children could exit the family home before the infrastructure they paid for is provided.
The reality is that many taxes are levied at the residential construction sector by all levels of government, and that local councils in particular have limited channels from which to raise revenue - and this is why they often turn to development levies.
However, these development levies come at a huge cost to home owners and they deserve to have full value for their dollar with absolute transparency as to how their money is being spent.
Lake Macquarie City Council needs to provide details to the development industry and home owners how this significant loan won't impact on the cost and the timing of delivering future infrastructure. Particularly when the burden of providing these funds has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the new home buyer.
Craig Jennion is the Hunter Executive Director at the Housing Industry Association.