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When it comes to housing policy, why arenít we talking about building more homes?

By Natalie Rayment - posted Thursday, 26 May 2022


Housing affordability was one of the key issues of the Federal Election. Accordingly, both the Coalition and Labor have promised policies to help more people into home ownership by giving them greater borrowing power.

The LNP has promised to expand the Home Guarantee Scheme – whereby the government acts as guarantor for homebuyers with a deposit of less than 20% – and is introducing the Super Home Buyer Scheme which allows first homebuyers to borrow from their superannuation for funds towards a home.

Labor, meanwhile, has proposed Help to Buy, a shared equity scheme whereby the Commonwealth Government will contribute to the cost of purchase of a home for lower- and middle-income earners.

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However, economists say that these policies are not an effective means of addressing Australia's housing affordability problem. In fact, they may worsen the issue.

The problem with these sorts of schemes is that they increase demand – putting upward pressure on house prices – while doing nothing to address supply.

As independent economist Saul Eslake told the ABC: "Schemes that allow people to pay more for housing than they otherwise would result in more expensive housing rather than in more people owning housing."

At YIMBY Qld, we believe the time has come to turn policy towards increasing supply, and not just increasing supply of social and community housing, which is of course important, but all forms of homes along the housing continuum.

"The only long-term solution to housing affordability is to build more homes where people want to live," said Angus Moore, an economist with PropTrack.

However, this is not as simple as it seems. Those places where people want to live are subject to planning and zoning policies which often favour a 'NIMBY' mentality that makes building new homes where people need them difficult.

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The Grattan Institute's recent submission to the Productivity Commission review found that:

"The historical shortage of housing in Australia is largely a failure of housing policy, rather than housing markets. Australia's land-use planning rules are highly prescriptive and complex. Current rules and community opposition make it very difficult to create extra residences in the inner city and middle-ring suburbs of our capital cities. And so new housing construction in Australian cities is relatively unresponsive to demand, and the density of Australian cities has barely changed in the past 35 years."

The result is that Australia has among the least housing stock per person in the developed world, with just over 400 dwellings for every 1,000 adults.

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About the Author

Natalie Rayment is a town planner and co-founder of YIIMBY Qld.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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