Measure to manage

Quality data collection is needed to ensure we have well-planned and resourced cities with sufficient housing supply for our growing population.

Author

Pino Monaco

The maxim ‘if it can’t be measured it can’t be managed’ applies to the recent debate about desirable levels of population growth.

The issue was put firmly on the agenda for the next federal election by the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge, in his October speech titled The congestion challenge: more infrastructure and stronger population planning to get better cities. The speech highlights congestion as the major concern for a population policy, but unfortunately hides the crucial importance of housing delivery in the population debate. Unless our growing population has somewhere to live at an affordable cost, congestion will not be their highest priority; even though it may be a priority for those fortunate enough to already be secure in the housing market.

The Minister was right in highlighting the need for better planning in the title of his speech. Well-planned and resourced cities are essential components in the complex process of delivering housing, employment and essential services for a growing population. This has not been one of Australia’s strengths. Many previous federal governments have left these issues to the state and local governments to manage. The result has been some of the most expensive residential land in the world being here in Australia.

A crucial missing step in the planning of new housing supply for our growing population has been the availability of quality, timely and consistent data on the housing delivery pipeline. With approvals for new land developments taking many years in most Australian cities and involving multiple infrastructure and other agencies in the process, quality information could dramatically improve the delivery of more affordable new housing.

HIA has always supported a strong skills based migration program for this reason and also because of the contribution that skilled migrants bring to the country

To this end HIA has been actively promoting the need for a Federal Housing Coordination Council to ensure that all states have reliable data about the land and housing supply pipeline. The data would be used to coordinate the efforts of federal, state and local governments in delivering the infrastructure to support new residential development in greenfields and in-fill locations in a way that better aligns the supply of new housing in the areas of demand.

We applaud the federal government’s re-engagement in the issues around population growth. The adoption and funding of the proposed Council would send a strong message to all levels of government and the industry that it was committed to the task. The Council would need to involve all levels of government and the industry to deliver the required results and would provide a forum for the development of initiatives to better manage population pressures.

The Minister’s speech also highlighted the valuable contribution that population growth, especially via migration, makes to the Australian economy. HIA has always supported a strong skills based migration program for this reason and also because of the contribution that skilled migrants bring to the country. At a time when both our population overall and building industry workers in particular are ageing, a youthful, skilled migrant inflow is especially valuable.

To bring all of these issues around population together, HIA has been promoting, for many years, the need for a federal housing minister. The time is right for the government to seize on this idea and at the very least to add ‘Housing’ to Minister Tudge’s title and responsibilities.

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