Temporary residential rate freeze for most Canberra households

residential rates freeze across Canberra houses and apartments

Most Canberra households will see a reduction in their rates for the 2020-21 financial year, following the ACT Government announcing a temporary rate freeze.

The residential rate freeze, working in conjunction with the application of a $150 rebate to the fixed charge component of all residential rates bills in 2020‑21, will see most Canberra homes pay less overall.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced a broader fees and charges freeze, along with other initiatives earlier this week at the Canberra Business Chamber’s State of the Territory Business Address.

Mr Barr said the $150 rebate measure alone will “inject” more than $25 million into the Territory economy when it’s applied across all ACT properties.

“Once you then add in the fallen electricity prices, the freeze in water and sewerage prices, the freeze on all of those other prices from a household perspective that adds up to hundreds and hundreds of dollars that they (Canberra households) are better off,” he said.

Mr Barr explained the $150 rebate will work as a “progressive rebate”, in that those who own lower value property will see greater benefit from it.

“It means more for lower value properties … If your rates were in the order of $1,500 a year then $150 off that is about a 10% reduction, however if your rates were $3,000 a year then it’s a 5% reduction,” he said.

Of the ACT’s 170,000 properties, Mr Barr estimates 110,000 will see a reduction in rates in the 2020-21 year due to the rebate.

Other fees and charges that will be frozen at current 2019-20 levels include: Birth, death and marriage registrations fees; Building fees; Domestic animal fees; Land title fees; Planning and development fees; Public health fees; and more.

The several fees and charges already frozen at 2019-20 levels or waived back in March, including the fire and emergency services levy, public transport, vehicle registration and parking fees, will remain fixed at the 2019-20 level for 2020-21.

Mr Barr said measures like freezing government fees and charges is the “the fastest and most direct way” his government can support the ACT economy “at this time” but warned it’s not “just something you can keep on doing forever”.

“It’s all being worn on the Territory budget … but at this moment when our economy is in the deepest recession it’s been in in living memory, now is the time for government to be injecting cash,” he said.

Landowners of ACT commercial and residential property have faced steep rate rises since 2012, when the ACT Government introduced their 20-year tax reform program.

That program set out to incrementally eliminate “inefficient” transaction-based taxes, such as stamp duty, replacing that revenue with higher residential and commercial rates.

In 2012, stamp duty had made up almost a quarter of all ACT Government revenue, despite only 9% of the population having paid the tax.

The ACT’s average residential rates have risen approximately 7% a year since the reforms were announced eight years ago, while commercial rates have risen at an average 19% a year over the same period.

Canberra Liberals Leader Alistair Coe described the rates freeze as a “desperate backflip on rates, just four months out from an election” from the Barr Government.

“Labor has proven time and time again that increasing rates is in their DNA. Labor’s tired and outdated philosophy is and always has been to tax people ‘til they bleed but not until they die’.”

Mr Coe said he would freeze rates “from day one in government” if the Canberra Liberals were to win this year’s election.

The Canberra Business Chamber welcomed the ACT Government’s announcement of a rate freeze for Canberra households and businesses but said there is more work to do on rates reform.

Chamber CEO, Graham Catt, said commercial rates is a key issue for their members.

“We welcome the additional financial support for Canberrans, and the potential for this to flow to local businesses and the ACT economy.”

He said the ACT Government’s commercial rates regime is responsible for “higher rents and reduced property values across the ACT”.

“Our members will, however, be looking for further reforms in this area.

“We have a real opportunity now for the business community to work with the ACT Government on reforms which will help business, create jobs, stimulate the economy and ensure a sustainable revenue base for the Territory in the long term,” Mr Catt said.

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