Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden is one of 14 councillors representing Gold Coast City Council — the second largest local government in Australia.
- About 94,000 investment properties on the Gold Coast are eligible for a 10 per cent early payment rates discount
- Councillors say removing the discount would provide council with an additional $20 million in revenue
- Attempts to remove discount in this year’s budget failed, but the issue could return in 2023
But the 29-year-old doesn’t pay rates.
Cr Bayldon-Lumsden worked as a teacher and disability support worker before he was elected in 2020 but spent his savings on the campaign.
Like many young Australians, Cr Bayldon-Lumsden said he had been unable break into the housing market, even with a councillor pay packet of $156,000.
“[I’d] never say I’ve been financially struggling,” he said.
“I’ve got friends where their rent has gone up between 50 to 200 dollars a week over the last few years because the market has changed so much.”
He said the properties they were renting hadn’t changed.
“But the values have gone up so much that the investors, the owners, can justifiably ask for those big increases in rent,” he said.
The surge in rents prompted Cr Bayldon-Lumsden to join a small group of councillors seeking to reduce rates discounts for owners of investment properties.
Estimates on new revenue
Mayor Tom Tate on Thursday announced this year’s budget would include a rates increase of at least four per cent — the highest in a decade but still below CPI of 5.1 per cent.
Households, including owner-occupiers, that pay their rates early or on time are eligible for a 10 per cent discount under council concessions.
But at a special budget meeting this week, councillor Glenn Tozer sought to remove that discount, which broadly equated to $250 per household for the 94,000 investment properties on the Gold Coast.
Cr Tozer said that could boost council revenue by about $20 million per year.
“Now is the time to start having a conversation about that,” he said.
“When 30 per cent of those investment property owners live out of the city, we need to find ways to deliver downward pressure on rates and funding for important community projects.”
Cr Tozer said it seemed appropriate and reasonable to be having another look at whether or not the discount was appropriate.
“The Australian Tax Office already provides incentives to investment property owners to pay their rents on time,” he said.
“It’s an expense that can be claimed.”
Issue likely to return next year
But the proposal was voted down by a majority of councillors, including deputy Mayor Donna Gates who said the cost of removing that discount could trickle down to renters.
“We need to be looking after the whole of the city at the moment to maintain as much of the status-quo as we can,” she told the meeting.
She said the Gold Coast was one of the few local governments that offered the discount and people had come to expect it.
Councillor Herman Vorster said he worried the loss of the discount could be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for some investors.
“If councillor Tozer proposed that this new revenue would be used for project x, y and z, perhaps we can understand what the trade off might be,” he said.
Cr Tate said debate on the issue should be considered earlier in next year’s budget process.
Cr Bayldon-Lumsden said the people who were renting had already had to pay an extra $150 a week.
“They’re not going to leave the rental they’re in at the cost of $5 a week,” he said.