1. Make housing a priority
As one of the largest industry sectors in the economy, housing must be a priority for the next federal government. The appointment of a federal housing minister to address housing supply in all forms of government is essential. Housing and land supply issues should also be a permanent item for discussion through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
2. Access to housing finance
As credit tightens and housing starts begin to decline, the importance of first home buyers of new housing needs to be recognised. Limits on lending through lenders mortgage insurance for home buyers with less than 20 per cent deposit add significant costs to the life of a loan with limited value for home buyers, particularly when default levels in Australia remain extremely low.
3. Reduce the tax on housing
The housing industry is the second most heavily taxed sector in the Australian economy, with up to 50 per cent of the price of a new house and land package being made up of federal, state and local government taxes and charges. While many taxes are transparent, many of the costs on housing remain hidden and ambiguous. These taxes need to be more clearly understood and cascading taxes should be eliminated.
4. Preserve independent contracting
Independent contracting underpins the operation and cost-effectiveness of the residential building industry. There has been much debate about the rise of the sharing economy and the potential need to make new rules to manage contracting. Business owners face confusion and costs in unravelling the many different definitions of who is a genuine independent contractor in federal and state legislation. Rather than more rules, industry needs a streamlining of definitions to provide clarity and allow good businesses to get on with doing business.
5. Protect investment in rental housing
Privately-owned rental housing makes up around one third of Australia’s nine million homes and provides much needed housing for those not ready – or able – to buy their own home, or not eligible for public housing. Negative gearing and capital gains tax arrangements underpin Australia’s long-term private rental market and have helped keep downward pressure on rents. It is essential that the taxation arrangements be retained.
6. Grow a skilled workforce for housing
A supply of skilled tradespeople is critical to providing the quantity and quality of new homes for the growing population. Government programs are essential to support apprentices and employers, to reduce complexity in training pathways and to support group training organisations to provide a guiding hand as young people enter the workforce.
7. Maintain strong immigration to underpin economic growth
Australia should promote and maintain a population growth rate sufficient to secure ongoing growth in Australia’s economic performance, workforce capacity, national productivity and standard of living. On this basis, caps and limits should be removed on skilled and business migration categories, and programs should be developed that allow ‘independent contractors’ to be recognised as skilled workers.
8. Manage land supply and housing data
Estimating how many homes Australia needs to build each year, where they are needed, and what type they should be, is a complex matter. While much of the responsibility falls to state governments, the role of a national housing minister to oversee housing delivery, monitor peaks and troughs, and coordinate infrastructure delivery, is critical.
9. Support the delivery of infrastructure for growing cities
State and local governments face difficulties in funding infrastructure to support housing delivery in our growing cities. The federal government can play an important role through city deals, and the National Housing and Infrastructure Financing Corporation to assist in funding necessary infrastructure for housing, and to remove upfront levies and charges on new home buyers.
10. Preserve affordability through housing codes
The National Construction Code provides an essential baseline for the construction of buildings in Australia and provides a community accepted minimum necessary standard for design as required by all legislation. However, pressure is increasing on the NCC to do more and to address energy and accessibility features that go beyond the minimum necessary. It is important that the code continues to be aligned with the regulatory principles that ensure housing remains affordable for all.