Real Action Needed to Address Housing Affordability

Real Action Needed to Address Housing Affordability

By Nick Ploubidis on Dec 01 2016

The sustained growth in house prices in major East coast metropolitan markets is creating a housing affordability crisis that can no longer be ignored by both State & Federal political leaders.

The average house price now costs 12 times the average salary (20 years ago this was only 4 times) & with minimal real wage growth & massive house price growth, this is even greater in markets like central Sydney & Melbourne. The long speculated house price bubble in these markets has proven the opposite. Each weekend with fewer properties available for sale & a growing list of desperate buyers, pressure on getting a home has seen house prices continue to rise & the very people responsible for dealing with this crisis our elected politicians; are silent or otherwise tokenistic in their suggestions on ways to address it!

It should be a fundamental right for every Australian to own a home. Our Government makes decisions to send Australian to war zones but constantly skirt entering a debate around how we deal with a crisis that’s going to impact many generations of Australians to come. Maybe it’s because they, & particularly State governments,
are the biggest benefactors of this housing affordability issue?

We’ve seen State government coffers swell with these punitive taxes on property; from stamp duty, to land tax, capital gains tax, development approval taxes & even legislating to increase their take of interest earned on property trust account funds. The Australian real estate sector is now the most taxed industry bar none.

What we do know about politicians is when they don’t have an answer they look for a distraction. Let’s stop this distraction & get on with developing real sound policies, so like generations past, future generations of Australians can enjoy a place they can call home. Let’s start by encouraging more families to establish their lives in regional centres by incentivising employers to relocate to these areas; it’s a long game, but it works - just look at the US. 

Next, let’s liberate real estate stock locked up because it’s too expensive for a homeowner to sell their property (& buy their next home). With stamp duty making up the bulk of these costs, it is time to change how this is calculated. The debate has been had; stamp duty is a highly inefficient & restrictive tax that is directly contributing to the rise in house prices in many markets, because the cost of change has become so prohibitive.

Next, we have to change the planning approval process; it’s failed in every aspect of encouraging sustainable development of housing stock to meet population demands.

Poor infrastructure is also forcing many to have to live close to CBD’s to avoid excessive travel, which in turn drives this insatiable demand for a home in these markets. Shame we haven’t seen more of the income generated through property taxes spent on improving infrastructure & public transport.

The solution is simple. We have to change the supply & demand characteristics of the real estate market. This is now a structural issue that requires real vision to fix. A good start is for the Federal government to acknowledge this crisis & appoint a dedicated Housing Minister whose sole responsibility is to address this housing shortage crisis by developing real policies with their State counterparts to fix all the constraints that currently sees housing demand outstrip supply in most major Australian property markets.

Original Blog Post: Sarah Lefebvre on November 24 2016 (for Grant Harrod, CEO LJ Hooker)