Yet again, affordable housing is a hot topic. Anybody would think that something will be done soon but I doubt it. This would involve people actually making a decision that is going to upset people. We can’t have that!
Every politician involved in this issue is reading from the script of the popular BBC series “Yes Minister”: “If you want to show concern for an issue but plan to change nothing, here’s what you do: hold an inquiry, string it out as long as you can and, at the end of it, find an unpopular minority (In Oz, read Chinese) to blame for the problem – and then recommend holding another, more in-depth, inquiry.”
The new NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has learned the script well. She says solving the housing crisis is her number one issue but rules out reviewing stamp duty, which is a state government cash cow. The Federal Government has a leading role in this sit-com as well. It makes it a big issue but refuses to look at negative gearing. Even our local Byron Council is getting into the act. A well-orchestrated talkfest is being planned for this Friday Feb 10 at the Cavanbah Centre. Looks like our rates are being well utilized on flights and accommodation for well-paid speakers to take minor, walk-on roles in this mini-drama with a long season but no resolution.
The property industry, of which I am a part, but hopefully an honest member, continually prattle on that it is all just a matter of supply. Again, this is self-serving as the HIA (Housing Industry Association) wants to keep rolling out suburban subdivisions and high-rise apartments to keep its members happy. Since they have been pushing supply for years and prices keep going up, they should give it a rest, as it’s obviously not the magic bullet they claim.
So enough hand wringing and belly aching, what are some solutions. Lets go through a few options, but will involve making some decisions:
– The federal government allows negative gearing for new dwellings only, or only one or two investments properties. At least this will target what Negative Gearing is supposed to be doing, which is to encourage the private sector to provide affordable rental dwellings and not help build investor property portfolios.
– The state government can eliminate or reduce stamp duty (and other revenue raising taxes) so buying property is not so expensive.
– Adjust pension asset tests so downsizing baby boomers selling the family home will not be slugged so hard. This would free up a large number of suburban properties being under utilized
– Free up planning regulations so more in-fill development provides housing for singles or couples
Local and regional councils could use caravan park/manufactured home estate planning to provide low cost options for retirees and singles
– Use incentives and building public transport to encourage growth in rural and regional centres
– Follow the Private Public Partnership model, which is a success and being looked at by Treasurer Scott Morrison during a recent UK visit. There, the Housing Finance Corporation is given low interest loans, backed by the government, to provide affordable rental property.