Land lease developments creating rate inequities in Port Stephens

IT’S no secret that Port Stephens is a retirement mecca.

In fact according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 data 29.1 percent of the population in the region is aged over 55 years of age.

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The face of living in retirement is changing fast and this has seen a new growth sector in the housing market – the Over 55’s Lifestyle Village – with many of these villages sitting on sites that are considered ‘caravan parks’.

In Port Stephens there are a multitude of these offerings including Sunrise, Latitude One, Tallowood, Sandy Shores, Greenside, Homestead, Bayway, The Cove, Palm Lake Resort and Karuah Waters Estate.

All of these villages use a similar model where a landlord pays business rates for the land use and the residents pay a rent, not rates, for each home.

Residents across Port Stephens face a large rate rise and questions are being asked about the inequity of the costs being paid per resident for Council services.

Residents in over 55’s lifestyle villages are asked the same questions about rate rises as homeowners and renters when the outcome may not impact their budgets and lifestyles.

Many homeowners and renters want Council to deliver within their means rather than residents paying more in rates.

Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington told News Of The Area, “The NSW Liberal National government has ignored the explosion of land lease developments over the last twelve years.

“They’ve allowed outdated planning laws to remain the same, meaning de facto subdivisions could be developed without residents paying rates.”

Ms Washington said it is not the residents of the villages who are to blame.

“The government has failed to keep its laws up to pace with housing demand, leaving our Council with a significant hole in its coffers.

“NSW has a housing crisis, and more homes are needed, but we must ensure development is appropriate and that there’s adequate infrastructure to support them.”

Steve Peart, Group Manager Development Services at Port Stephens Council told News Of The Area, “Each manufactured home estate is usually a single parcel of land owned by a single business entity and rated as a business paying the higher business rate.

“Each home site in an estate is leased by the occupant from the business entity.

“As homesites in estates have some shared services, the NSW Valuer General cannot issue a separate valuation for each home site or residence.

“Councils are not permitted to calculate rates on a per capita basis, or any other basis apart from land value and land category in NSW.

“As a result of this legislation, residents of over 55’s style development do not pay rates.

“It is fair to say that legislation has not kept pace with these developments, so the apparent inequities continue.”

Mr Peart said Council has an active program of advocating to the State Government for reform concerning lifestyle villages, and is currently working with the NSW Department of Planning on this in combination with other councils, such as MidCoast Council.

“Council has removed ‘caravan parks’ as a permissible use in zones where this type of development is considered inappropriate, with recent approval relying on existing use rights.

“Representations to the State Government have been made over a number of years, aimed at fostering rate reform, but there have been no changes in the legislation has occurred.

“Council has also taken the opportunity to make strong representation to IPART when submissions were called into the rating structures in Local Government.

“These suggestions were not adopted by the State Government.

“These representations included asking for the agency to address the prevalence of short-stay accommodation but also around the difficulties of the over 55’s lifestyle developments in 2018/2019.

“IPART formalised its review and made recommendations to the State Governments.

“The State Government did not take up the recommendations and the reform didn’t progress.”

Other submissions to the State Government have related to the lack of a framework for considering lifestyle villages.

“The state government has recognized that this is an issue but it is yet to be resolved,” he said.

“Council will at every chance continue to advocate to the State government on this issue.”


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