05/05/2020 - 12:05

Architects push for property stimulus to boost economy

05/05/2020 - 12:05

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The Australian Institute of Architects is calling on governments to drive targeted initiatives that could stimulate the property sector, helping to accelerate economic recovery from COVID-19.

Architects push for property stimulus to boost economy

The Australian Institute of Architects is calling on governments to drive targeted initiatives that could stimulate the property sector, helping to accelerate economic recovery from COVID-19.

The institute has today put forward a range of solutions it believes could provide the economic boost Australia needs as governments turn their attention to post COVID-19 recovery plans, including fast-tracking infrastructure projects and development approvals, prioritising a ‘buy local’ procurement process, and encouraging energy efficiency retrofit projects. 

AIA national president Helen Lochhead said the institute's proposed solutions had drawn on lessons learned from Australian’s response to the GFC. 

“The construction industry directly employs nearly one in 10 Australians," she said.

“This creates an opportunity for our sector to do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to the economic recovery from COVID-19, provided governments pull the stimulus levers available to them.

“Governments can fast-track existing health, educational, housing and infrastructure projects that are in the early stages of development to aid in a swift and strong recovery from the economic fallout of COVID-19.”

Beyond pushing major infrastructure projects, Professor Lochhead said governments should focus on rolling out social and affordable housing, updgrading community facilities as well as public spaces and energy efficiency components, and promoting projects located in regional communities affected by the recent bushfires. 

“Identifying a clear pipeline of future work will rebuild industry confidence. Streamlining approvals by freeing-up planning bottlenecks and speeding up approvals without compromising on quality would deliver significant economic benefit,” she said. 

“Governments also need to put their significant purchasing power to best use with procurement processes that support Australian businesses with a 'buy local' approach. 

“At this critical time, we want to reverse the trend of recent years where major contracts are often awarded to international companies. This includes bringing more fairness to tendering and design competitions, and preferencing high-quality local expertise in line with the Institute’s guidelines.” 

Professor Lochhead said there should be a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, which comprise 98 per cent of businesses in the building and construction industry. 

“One of the key lessons learned from the Building Education Revolution program during the GFC was that projects were placed in the hands of a few large companies, with small and regional businesses missing out on the downstream benefits of this stimulus spending,” she said. 

In addition, the institute recommended considering the multiplier benefits that could follow from improving energy efficiency of homes as well as new and retrofitted properties such as schools, offices and public buildings. 

The institute pointed to government buildings as a first step - with governments occupying about 30 per cent of Australia’s commercial building space. 

“Investing in upgrades to, and the adaptive reuse of, many underutilised and neglected heritage places is another sizeable stimulus opportunity,” Professor Lochhead said. 

“The institute commends all Australian governments on the measures they have taken to date to safeguard both Australians’ health and safety, and their financial well-being.

“We urge governments to consider the medium and long-term benefits of all potential stimulus measures to maximise the efficiency of their investments working with our industry to achieve a timely economic recovery.”

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