Jonathan Hallinan calls time saying foreign buyers are a necessity not "our enemy"

Jonathan Hallinan calls time saying foreign buyers are a necessity not "our enemy"
Jonathan Hallinan calls time saying foreign buyers are a necessity not "our enemy"

Melbourne apartment developer Jonathan Hallinan, a Financial Review Rich Lister, has called time.

"I am pulling out of the residential space," Jonathan Hallinan told the press this week.

"Policy makers have repeatedly hit our industry with several regulatory changes, which are now compounding to result in what is likely to be a devastating effect on housing supply and affordability in the long term," he had previously blogged.

"Over my 22-year career as a property developer, I have had to remain nimble enough to withstand changing market forces.

"I have not tried to forecast economic swings or predict fluctuations in the housing economy, but rather create a formidable business model that can endure the inevitable peaks and troughs of the property cycle.

"However, the last 12 months of successive government restrictions on the property industry have put insurmountable pressures on many developers that are far beyond most local developers’ ability to restructure their business models and adapt.

"It would appear that our policy makers, who evidently believe that their actions are alleviating the pressures of an over-heated housing market, are, with great success, crippling the very industry that has the power to ease the housing affordability crisis."

Hallinan lists the recent adverse changes:

1. Introduction of APRA regulations on banks and financial lenders which resulted in changes to investment lending, reducing the borrowing power of investors.

2. Removal of the stamp-duty concession from off-the-plan purchasers for investors

3. Introduction of plot ratios to the Melbourne Planning scheme, hugely lessening the number of dwellings that could be built on a development site.

4. Implementation of apartment design guidelines, forcing developers to build fewer larger and more expensive apartments.

5. Limitations on foreign purchasers to not more than 50% ownership in a given apartment project

6. 7% foreign surcharge on all offshore purchasers

7. Enforcement of minimum $5,000 FIRB application fees

8. Increase of 5.5% stamp duty fees on foreign purchasers

9. Enforcement of absentee surcharges on purchasers with properties vacant for six months or more

10. Proposed introduction of a new tax on the four banks as part of the 2017 Budget.

"Since the [stamp duty] changes have been implemented, foreign sales have been almost non-existent," Hallinan told the Australian Financial Review.
He reaffirmed that supply of new apartments would "fall off a cliff" as more developers followed suit.

"Supply is about to fall of the cliff, so my predictions are that rental occupancy will decrease when this happens.

"You will see price growth and yet another boom over and above the one we already are witnessing," he suggested in his blog post.

One of BPM's most recent acquisitions was a two-storey commercial King Street building in the centre of Melbourne for $12.35 million with a plans for a new hotel as part of a mixed-use development.

Jonathan Hallinan founded BPM in 1995 securing early success with luxury townhouses in Melbourne’s bayside areas.

In 2015 BPM was working on its first high-rise luxury development, Shadow Play, a $300 million project of 494 apartments which is shortly due for completion.

Designed by Ellenberg Fraser, with interior finishes from designers Hecker Guthrie, the project is at the corner of City Rd and Clarendon St, previously home to King Furniture.

There was a $10 million plus penthouse sale secured in 2015. By August 2016 there'd been a 75% sales success.

The marketing included a $350,000 bespoke promotional short film, which billed Shadow Play as “elegant hedonism”.

Hallinan suggested there was "a misconception in the media that foreign buyers are our enemy in this crisis, creating more competition for local buyers."

He advised his Shadow Play project of 500 apartments relied on the sale of 150 apartments being sold to international purchasers to get out of the ground.

"Without these 150 sales, the project would not have gone ahead, and certainly would not have been able to develop the additional 350 apartments, which were all sold to local buyers.

"And of the 150 foreign purchasers, the majority are investors providing further supply into the over-heated local rental market."

Only last year when the AFR asked Hallinan to describe his life philosophy he said: "Love the fight, not just the victory. The victory for me is developing buildings that contribute to the skyline of Australian cities. But in signing up for that dream more than 20 years ago, I also signed up for the costs and the pain. I made a conscious choice."

At its peak BPM had more than 2,600 apartments across 16 projects under development with a combined value in excess of $1.4 billion.

There was even speculation of $US300 million site acquisitions in Los Angeles as he signalled he did not want to be exposed to the ups and downs of just one country’s real estate market.

“I am not prepared to have a business that is in one property cycle,” he told The Australian in 2015.

Back home, last October Hallinan advised only two apartment settlements failed to proceed in two of his completed projects in the Melbourne and Brisbane apartment markets.

They were the 40-unit Black Fold project in Brisbane's West End and the 30-unit Light Edge project in Melbourne.

"We've settled 70 in the last two months," Hallinan told Fairfax Media.

"Over two projects, we've had two fall over. Those two were very quickly resold."

Black Fold was a collaboration between BPM, Noel Robinson Architects and Hecker Guthrie with one and two bedroom apartments.

The 27-29 Bank Street project was a sellout after its 2015 marketing.

Black Fold is situated 1.5 kilometres south west of the CBD.

Jonathan Hallinan won The CEO Magazine’s Construction Executive of the year award in 2015.

His first property was in the south-east Melbourne suburb of Bentleigh at age 19, following the completion of my carpenter's apprenticeship.

He purchased the property for $90,000, with just $12,000 of his own equity.

"Through managing the renovation and subdivision process, I turned a $12,000 investment into $220,000 in 18 months," he once advised.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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Foreign Ownership New Apartments

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