Home Property Australia Chief Executive | A year of sovereign risk – conflicting messages on investment, migration and housing

Chief Executive | A year of sovereign risk – conflicting messages on investment, migration and housing

  • December 13, 2023
  • by Mike Zorbas
Property Council Chief Executive Mike Zorbas on Sunrise discussing the Government’s new migration strategy announced yesterday

Hoping for Christmas cheer? Next week’s column is for you. This one…not so much.

2023’s tsunami of tax change at federal and state levels has created almost monthly negative impacts for institutions that want to invest in building Australian cities and homes.

That’s the clear message from global investors. Stop tampering.

Governments in structural deficit are saying one thing and doing the opposite. They are setting ambitious housing targets with one hand and deterring the investment required to hit those targets and build our cities with the other.

As yet unlegislated, Monday’s migration changes send the same conflicting signal.

Keeping out skilled workers is evidence-free policy that means we won’t have enough people to deliver our housing and city-building pipelines. This short-sighted approach will detonate on contact with the reality of our growing housing deficits next year.

As I said to 7 Network’s Matt Shervington, migration must be about the getting the mix right.

We will have to intelligently manage down the overall number of people staying in Australia and dial up the percentage who can help grow our nation’s prosperity.

Boosting skilled trades and care economy workers

Shockingly over the past 20 years, only 1.8 per cent of permanent migrants have arrived employed in construction trades to build our cities.

Australia needs to at least double the long-term arrival of construction trades if we are to have a hope of building our 1.2 million new homes target by 2029.

Clearly the same deficits in the care economy are a significant hurdle for thriving living sector communities, especially retirement living.

We will champion significantly more property-related skilled migration as a share of the smaller proposed intake, ahead of Parliament’s return in 2024.


Reducing the national intake will rely on tightening rules around international student visas.

Promoting genuine students and closing rorts makes sense, and beats a blanket cap on international students, still Australia’s top service export.

All the while, purpose-built student accommodation is the housing solution hiding in plain sight. It eases affordability by taking 80,000 people out of the wider rental market each year.

Time for state and city governments to back in purpose-built student accommodation at scale.

Overseas investment changes flagged for 2024

In a welcome move, the Federal governments propose foreign investment application fees for build-to-rent projects will be set at the lowest commercial level, no matter the kind of land involved.

Other proposed changes include a tripling of foreign investment fees for established homes and doubling of vacancy fees. Generally this should work to channel new overseas housing dollars into building new homes and free up unused homes for the rental market. We will be combing over the details ahead of any legislation.

Next stop removing state foreign investor taxes on new builds.

Every Building Counts

On Monday, our ACT Executive Director Shane Martin joined co-author Green Building Council CEO Davina Rooney and ACT Minister Shane Rattenbury to launch the third and final report in the successful 2023 Every Building Counts series.

Australia’s property companies are world leaders in sustainability, and we have long championed a well-defined government road map to maintain market confidence as we decarbonise the built environment.

Out latest report lays out 40 recommendations for state and territory governments to do just that.


Next week, the year in review.