Category: News (20)

News

 (Source: Domain)

 

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(Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

The Berejiklian government and rail union are heading for a showdown with the arrival of the first of $1.6 billion worth of new intercity trains from South Korea next month, due to claims that they have been “specifically designed to get rid of guards”.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance and an artist's impression of an intercity train.

 

The first two of 55 intercity trains on order will arrive at Wollongong’s Port Kembla on or about December 17, about eight months later than originally planned.

Commuters will have to wait until at least March to ride on the first of the new double-deck trains from Sydney to the Central Coast and Newcastle because they are required to undergo rigorous testing on local tracks before they are permitted to carry passengers.

Their arrival just days before Christmas is set to ignite a battle between the government and unions about whether the state intends to keep guards on the new trains in the longer term.

Rail Tram and Bus Union state secretary Alex Claassens said the new trains had been “specifically designed to get rid of guards altogether” and make them driver-only.

An artist's impression of the interior of a 
new intercity train.

“We believe this train is inherently unsafe set up the way it is at the moment, and we will do everything we can within our power to ensure the travelling public of NSW are safe. We will trial and test it but we won’t allow passengers to get on it if it is not safe,” he said.

Mr Claassens said roles that guards performed on other trains in the state’s fleet, such as making special announcements and responding to passengers via help points in carriages, would now be carried out on the new intercity trains by drivers or remotely from an operations centre.

But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he wanted to reassure passengers that the new intercity trains would have “both a driver and a customer service guard on board when it comes into service next year”.

“We have no plans to change this staffing arrangement on the new trains,” he said.

However, his assurances have failed to dispel staff fears that guards will eventually be removed. Mr Claassens said the way the new trains had been engineered meant that the guards would “not be in a meaningful role and therefore will not last”.

The state’s transport agency said the new trains would have a “dedicated and enclosed crew cabin which the customer service guard would travel in”.

“Customer service guards will be visible, coming out from the crew cabins, and walking through the carriages and monitoring platforms to provide customer service and assistance with boarding and alighting,” Transport for NSW said. “Our customers will benefit most during express services where there is more time between stations for the guard to be in the carriage.”

Internal documents obtained by the Herald under freedom-of-information laws show Transport for NSW staff have been regularly visiting Korea to keep a close eye on production of the trains. Some of the inspections were necessary to resolve “commercial matters” relating to “minor defects” and the completion and transportation of the “first train unit”.

Labor leader Jodi McKay said the project had been dogged by poor planning and execution.

“Given that many intercity stations don’t have staff on the ground, it is unclear who will be keeping a watchful eye on passenger safety,” she said.

Transport for NSW said it had “held the trains in South Korea for longer to allow us to do more testing”, which would avoid a significant impact on Sydney’s rail network. Sections of track have to be closed when testing of new trains is undertaken.

The entire cost of the intercity project is $3.9 billion, of which $1.6 billion is the capital cost of the new trains. It also includes a 15-year contract with engineering firm UGL to maintain the trains at a new facility at Kangy Angy on the Central Coast, which is late to open.

(source: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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Housing prices in Sydney and Melbourne are set to keep pushing higher into next year with the bank regulator unlikely to intervene again for some time to make it any harder to borrow money, according to experts.

Despite the strongest quarterly price rebound since the 1990s for both cities, potential home owners are more likely to see another interest rate cut before a regulatory move to slow the market.

Forecasts have been upgraded with the two major cities tipped to rise as much as 15 per cent in 2020 after housing sentiment picked up sharply in the past few months.

The remarkable turnaround came as the federal election result locked in favourable housing tax policies and the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate three times. Bank regulator APRA meanwhile slashed its stress test from checking borrowers could repay at least a 7 per cent interest rate to just a 2.5 per cent buffer above an applicant’s home loan rate, a move that added tens of thousands of dollars to potential loan sizes.

Sydney led the rebound with house prices regaining almost one-third of the value lost during the two-year downturn, jumping 4.8 per cent to a median $1,079,491 in the September quarter, on Domain figures.

Melbourne recorded its fastest recovery, regaining more than half of what was lost in the recent downturn with the city’s median house price up 4.1 per cent to $855,428.

In the past, APRA had moved to stabilise soaring dwelling prices, restricting the flow of interest-only loans in 2017 when the market was white-hot and limiting growth in lending to investors in 2014.

Forecasts for capital city housing prices are being upgraded as the market strengthens, with SQM Research last week predicting Sydney dwelling prices to rise between 10 and 14 per cent over 2020 and Melbourne to add 11 to 15 per cent.

Related: Dwelling prices tipped for double-digit gains in Sydney, Melbourne: report
Related: Sydney property market records fastest rebound in decades
Related: Melbourne house prices rise 4.1 per cent in September quarter, the quickest recovery ever
Canberra was tipped to lift 3 to 7 per cent, Brisbane 3 to 6 per cent and Perth 3 to 6 per cent.

The projection assumes APRA does not intervene in the market again until at least late 2020.

“Recent comments by APRA are basically along the lines that they actually welcomed the price rises in Sydney and Melbourne this year because that will actually stabilise the risks to the economy,” SQM founder and managing director Louis Christopher said.

“Going forward, they are just going to be monitoring credit growth.”

Commonwealth Bank also lifted its house price forecasts, tipping 7 per cent growth for Sydney in 2020 and 8 per cent in Melbourne, with more modest rises of 4 per cent for Brisbane, 4 per cent in Canberra and 2.5 per cent in Perth.

NAB economist Alan Oster said it was unlikely credit would become harder to access.

“There’s no credit growth at the moment. You’d need a very strong pick up in prices,” Mr Oster said. “You can’t just raise it for just Sydney and Melbourne; you have to do it across Australia. It’s not going to happen in the next 12 months.”

DSC_9297_iwb5kf
Price forecasts have been revised and are tipped to increase as much as 15 per cent in the two major cities. Photo: Peter Rae
EY Oceania chief economist Jo Masters said the 7 per cent serviceability floor was set at a time when mortgage interest rates were relatively higher.

“[The stress-test] is not the major driver of how much you can borrow, it’s expenses and income,” Ms Masters said. “It has a big sentiment impact, and alongside the election and rate cuts, it turned sentiment in the market.”

“We do not hear any real concern from the RBA about the rising house prices … I’m not getting any sense people are concerned.”

Ms Masters said as volumes pick up it’s unclear how the rate of growth would be sustained into 2020.

DSC_6796_qiahwd
APRA changed the stress test from at least 7 per cent repayments to a 2.5 per cent buffer. Photo: Peter Rae
AMP Capital chief economist Dr Shane Oliver said higher house prices alone would not be enough to raise the stress-test.

“It will require a combination of things. Price gains is one of them, but bank credit growth remains low,” Dr Oliver said. “If that credit grows than that would be something that would bring APRA back into the picture.”

He said a sharp rebound in interest-only lending, investor loans and the deterioration of loan-to-value ratios would be other factors needed to increase the mortgage repayment buffer.

But there is a chance that could happen, he said.

“If we continue at that rate [of house price growth], we’ll be at all-time highs by the middle of next year, and if they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down, then that is a major concern.”

with Elizabeth Redman

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How do these look?

(Source: Domain)

image2 image3 image4 image5 image6 main

401/235-237 Carlingford Road Carlingford

BRAND NEW THREE BEDROOMS APARTMENT|” VIVID”

Do not miss out this brand new luxurious three bedrooms apartment located on the heart of Carlingford. Just a short stroll to Carlingford train station, Carlingford Court, bus stops, schools, local shops and other amenities.

APARTMENT FEATURES:
• Gourmet kitchen with Gas cook top, electric oven, ducted range hood & dishwasher
• Spacious bedrooms and open plan lounge dining areas
• Air conditioning
• Built in wardrobe
• Two secure car spaces and storage
• Convenient Internal Laundry with dryer

For inspection, please contact Kevin on 0422 240 797

  • General Features
  • Property Type:Apartment
  • Bedrooms:3
  • Bathrooms:2
  • Bond:$2,440
  • Indoor Features
  • Intercom
  • Dishwasher
  • Air Conditioning

( Source: Domain news)

Sydney renters are in for a better time but investors and developers will suffer as the growing supply of apartments in the NSW capital pushes rents down and weakens banks’ willingness to lend for new developments.

The near-halving in the pace of price gain in the Sydney residential market to 9.4 per cent in the 12 months to August from a year earlier has been accompanied by a faster growth in the value of houses than apartments that is likely to continue, valuer WBP Property Group said in its State of the Market Report.

“Amid the current credit environment, Sydney’s deteriorating rental market will drive prices down, particularly those areas in which there is ample supply of apartments – areas like Botany LGA, Auburn, Lane Cove and Ryde,” the report says.

Bad news for investors with apartment rent to fall in Sydney, valuer WBP saysBad news for investors with apartment rent to fall in Sydney, valuer WBP says Photo: istock

“Caution is also advised for investors considering Parramatta, which has the highest vacancy rates in Sydney. Meanwhile, Bondi continues to experience growth, with certain pockets remaining tightly held.”

In contrast to the mid-2000s when rents were surging up to 6 per cent a year, rents in Sydney are already only growing at a basic 1 per cent a year, the UNSW Centre for Applied Economic Research said last month. SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher has said tenants in Sydney’s CBD and inner rings can expect “bargains” in 2018.

The WBP report does not predict how much rents will fall, but says that at a time when Sydney developers are reconsidering their development pipeline amid expectations of large numbers of new apartment completions, areas such as Sutherland, 30km south of the CBD were increasingly seeing permitted development sites being put back into the market.

“Emerging areas like Sutherland are witnessing an increasing number of multi-unit sites now being offered to the market, with some developers facing profit concerns in the long-term – an issue further exacerbated by borrower difficulties obtaining finance for off-plan properties,” the report said.

The latest official approval numbers back up the picture of developers putting on the brakes. In September, new apartment approvals in NSW slumped 20 per cent month on month, the largest fall in more than a year. Total apartment approvals in NSW over the year to September, however, rose to a new record 46,590. There is no indication how many of those approvals will turn into projects on the ground.

A further challenge for developers will come from imminent building design regulations, WBP said.

“Where once a site might have accommodated 80 units, it may now only allow 50,” it said.

HSBC has weighed in on the house price debate, saying the measures the Reserve Bank of Australia used to determine that the property market is cooling are correct.

Despite discrepancies between the four major indicators, the bank says the fact that housing loan approvals and credit growth have slowed point to an overall cooling in what has been a red hot market for some time.

“The bottomline is that the weight of evidence suggests that there has been some cooling in the housing market,” wrote chief economist Paul Bloxham in a note to clients on Monday.

“Compositional shifts in housing turnover are making it difficult to get a clear read on housing price growth but, importantly, housing loan approvals and credit growth have slowed.”

'The bottom line is that the weight of evidence suggests that there has been some cooling in the housing market,' wrote ...

‘The bottom line is that the weight of evidence suggests that there has been some cooling in the housing market,’ wrote HSBC’s Paul Bloxham.  Photo: Supplied

Divergent indicators

There are four bodies that measure the year-on-year growth of house prices and recently they have showed widely diverging figures, prompting investors and analysts to wonder which to believe.

CoreLogic breaks down the particulars of a given property; the number of bedrooms, the block size and location, among other things, and this is referred to as the “compositional” make-up of the property. APM and the Australian Bureau of Statistics use a stratified approach that groups houses into 10 different price levels, then finds an overall average. Lastly, Residex uses a “repeat sales” method, which tracks the turnover for each house over time.

CoreLogic has traditionally been the go-to measure for the RBA, and its data shows the strongest price growth in Sydney and Melbourne but it recently underwent a change in how it gathers and distils data.

The research firm decided to discount extremely high and low priced property sales as they tended to distort the overall picture.

The RBA has no need to switch from its easing bias just yet, SSGA says.

The RBA has no need to switch from its easing bias just yet, SSGA says. Photo: Brook Mitchell

As such, the RBA has become wary of CoreLogic’s accuracy and pointed out in its August official statement that “strong increases reported by CoreLogic were overstated as a result of methodological changes”. Some commentators are up in arms that the RBA might be ignoring rampant property price growth.

Mr Bloxham has looked instead to CoreLogic’s raw median data that does not adjust for compositional changes and found that price growth in Sydney has slowed, contrary to what the adjusted measure indicates.

“One plausible explanation is that a greater amount of lower priced housing has been turned over recently,” Mr Bloxham said.

“This fits with the fact that a lot of newly built apartments have been coming to market and apartments tend to be lower priced than detached houses.”

He also points to auction clearance rates, which have been high in recent months. Auctions tend to be held for more expensive houses, particularly those in Sydney’s east, signalling more higher priced homes are going under the hammer rather than a broad price increase across the board.

“More sales of lower priced dwellings would also be consistent with the fall in housing loan approvals and slowdown in housing credit growth, as access to credit is typically a more important factor for lower priced housing,” Mr Bloxham said.

Tighter lending standards

He also points to the tightening of lending standards since late 2014, which have made it more difficult for investors to fuel housing price growth, particularly in the apartment market.

As such, HSBC believes the central bank is unlikely to cut interest rates in a bid to stifle exuberant property price growth.

“If housing price growth proves to be stronger than most of the measures show, or there is a re-acceleration of housing prices, loan approvals or credit growth, we see this as likely to bolster, rather than challenge, our case that the RBA is unlikely to cut further,” he wrote.

( Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

( Source: Domain news)

Added checks and balances will come info force on Sunday to help tenants become more aware of potentially fatal loose-fill asbestos in their homes, but experts say more could be done to protect them.

Until now, landlords have not been required to disclose in a tenancy agreement whether a house contains the deadly material, but now  changes to tenancy laws will give renters added transparency about homes they are moving into.

Loose-fill asbestos, installed as ceiling insulation in about 1000 ACT homes in the 1960s and 1970s by local company Mr Fluffy, is potentially also present in up to 927 NSW homes, according to an independent investigation by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

From October 30, tenants must be advised within 14 days of property being listed on the Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation Register.From October 30, tenants must be advised within 14 days of property being listed on the Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation Register. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Of more than 9000 NSW homes that have undergone free testing since the state government’s Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program‘s introduction in June 2015, 123 properties have tested positive and been listed on a publicly available NSW Fair Trading register. Just four of the properties were in Sydney.

“It is important for tenants to be aware if a property contains loose-fill asbestos,” said a NSW Fair Trading spokesperson. “Over time, hazardous airborne fibres can move from the ceiling into living spaces … and fibres that are breathed in can pose a risk to health.”

Under recent changes affected homes must display a warning label on the home’s main switchboard, and landlords have to advise tenants within 14 days of their property being added to the register. As of Sunday, it must also be written into the standard Residential Tenancy Agreement given to prospective tenants.

Asbestos workers prepare to remove Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos from three homes in the ACT.Asbestos workers prepare to remove Mr Fluffy loose-fill asbestos from three homes in the ACT. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Michael Elkorr, director of asbestos testing and removal company Asbestex, said tenants who don’t carry out renovations, could still be exposed to loose-fill asbestos, found in ceilings but it can also fall into wall cavities.

“A house moves over the years, there’s wind activity in the roof space, you get small expansion cracks in walls … the fibres over time migrate into the house,” he said. “Then you get people going into the roof to fix things … they can bring fibres back down on their clothing.”

The state government has bought 38 of 123 affected properties, with another 70 homes to be bought in coming months. They will be demolished. Registration with Fair Trading for free testing of pre-1980s properties within the 28 identified local government areas closes on Monday.

Loose fill asbestos which was used as ceiling insulation can also be found in wall cavities.Loose fill asbestos which was used as ceiling insulation can also be found in wall cavities. Photo: ACT Asbestos Taskforce

Already, more than 73,000 homes are waiting for free testing, which Fair Trading anticipates will take until June 2017 to complete.

Tenants’ Union of NSW senior policy officer Ned Cutcher said while the changes were a step in the right direction, landlords could easily avoid registering for the free testing.

“They could have allowed tenants to initiate the [free testing] process … given they’re the ones at risk and it appears to me that it’s perhaps a little too easy for landlords to put their head in the sand,” he said. “[The landlord] may or may not want to get testing, as once they find out there is asbestos they have to tell the tenant.”

Mr Cutcher was also disappointed that a positive asbestos test was not grounds for tenants to terminate their lease, without having to give compensation to a landlord. Tenants who don’t want to remain at an affected property had to give 21 days notice outside the fixed-term period or negotiate the termination of their lease if within it.

“If you find out you’re in an affected property, I’d definitely recommend getting some advice from a Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, on how to end the agreement.”

Tenants who experience difficulty terminating the lease can lodge a complaint with NSW Fair Trading, the spokesperson added.

The state government is also considering introducing legislation requiring all homeowners to guarantee when selling a property, that it does not contain loose-fill asbestos insulation.

Currently, vendors with properties that have tested positive for loose-fill asbestos are supposed to pass on details to their agent, who is now required to disclose this to potential buyers.

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