28 May 2019
Major stamp duty reforms and the opening of new light rail service in April are helping to transform Canberra from a quiet public service centre to an exciting and evolving downsizer destination.
Given the big changes which are underway in the nation’s capital, Downsizing.com.au decided to do a deep dive into Canberra as a downsizing destination.
Across Australia, stamp duty is regarded as being one of the major barriers to downsizing. A survey conducted by Downsizing.com.au and LJ Hooker in 2017 in fact found that 27 per cent of people nominated removal of stamp duty as the one incentive which would help them downsize.
The ACT Government however is addressing the stamp duty scourge in two ways, both of which are potentially attractive to downsizers.
Firstly, it is offering a Pensioner Duty Concession Scheme, which reduces or eliminates stamp duty when eligible pensioners sell their existing family home and purchase a new or existing home before 30 June 2019.
The scheme also applies to ‘off the plan’ and vacant land purchases.
Importantly, people can sell their family home outside the ACT - such as Sydney or Melbourne - and then claim the stamp duty concession when they move into the ACT.
This differs to some other concession schemes across Australia which require retirees to sell and buy in the same State or Territory.
Under the incentive, no stamp duty is payable on properties valued $680,500 or less, meaning a saving of up to $20,300.
“The Pensioner Duty Concession Scheme assists eligible pensioners to move to accommodation more suited to their needs – for example, moving from a house to a townhouse – by charging a concessional rate of conveyance duty,” an ACT Government spokesperson told Downsizing.com.au
“While eligible pensioners moving to the ACT from interstate can access the scheme, the primary aim is to increase the availability of larger family homes in the ACT rather than attracting downsizers from other parts of Australia.”
Separately, the ACT Government began a 20-year program to modernise the territory’s taxation system in 2012.
This includes reducing stamp duty and – in the longer term – will enable downsizers to buy into the market because they’ll face less upfront costs. By the same token, it see an increase in the annual council rates bill paid by properties.
New light rail system
Separately, Canberra appeal as a downsizing destination has been enhanced by the construction of a new light rail system, which officially opened on April 2019.
The city’s first 12km light rail stage connects the fast-growing area of Gungahlin, through Dickson to the City. By 2025, this north-south route will connect to Woden while by 2033 an east-west route is forecast to connect Belconnen to the Airport.
“The Government’s investments to improve public transport (including through the development of light rail) are aimed at making the ACT even more connected and liveable,” an ACT Government spokesperson said.
“If downsizers from other parts of Australia see the ACT as an attractive place to live due to light rail and are able to make use of the Pensioner Duty Concession Scheme to facilitate a move to the ACT, we welcome these people doing so.”
Retirement living options
Goodwin Aged Care Services, whose Central at Crace won the ACT Development of the Year award, says the nation’s capital is increasingly being seen as a living and retirement destination. The suburb of Crace is close to Gungahlin, which is serviced by light rail.
Erik Boddeus, who is the Executive Director for Retirement Living with Goodwin, says he has witnessed a demographic change in Canberra.
Mr Boddeus says he is now seeing more people growing up or working in Canberra and wanting to stay when they reach their retirement age.
“This decade we have seen a reverse sea change in the ACT. People are now calling Canberra home. We really see that - more and more people want to stay in Canberra,” Mr Boddeus said.
The Central includes a Health and Wellness Centre, which will officially open in September. It features medical services and a Health Club, accessible to both Goodwin clients and residents of The Central.
Meanwhile, Mark McCann, who is the Principal of McCann Properties, says new apartment projects along Stage 1 of the light rail are big sellers, including Gungahlin which is serviced by the Gungahlin Place stop.
Mr McCann says suburbs along the yet-to-be built Stage 2 corridor, such as Woden, are also sparking interest.
Find out more
While it is known for its cold winters, Canberra does have lovely summers with temperatures rising to a very liveable and outdoor-friendly 28 degrees.
The city’s vast amount of open space and waterways, and world-renowned arts and cultural facilities, make it well-worth considering as a downsizing or retirement destination.
To find out more about Canberra as a downsizing location, search for homes on the Downsizing.com.au website.
By Maha Obeid on behalf of Downsizing.com.au. Email us at [email protected]