Our 10-point game plan

Home ownership will remain out of reach for many Australians if the next federal government doesn’t put housing firmly on its agenda.

Author

Pino Monaco

Whatever the outcome of the looming federal election, the incoming Commonwealth Government will need to pay greater attention to housing issues and the health of the residential building industry.

Housing affordability ranked in the top three issues of concern to voters, according to Australia-wide research conducted by HIA late last year. Only healthcare and the cost of living rank more highly.

Housing pressure is being felt the most by renters. While more than 90 per cent of renters aspire to own their own home, less than half feel that they will ever achieve it. This is a sobering outcome – and one that all levels of government should take notice of, particularly since less than half of those surveyed believe governments are performing well on housing affordability.

Helping more renters into home ownership and improving housing affordability needs some serious thought and action by government, and so does the governments’ attitude towards the residential building industry. If the industry isn’t healthy, then there is little chance to improve housing conditions.

The recent clamping down on credit availability for home buyers and small businesses is a case in point. When combined with the punishing taxes levied on foreign buyers by the states, and the regulatory barriers on lending introduced by federal agencies, the current credit squeeze has undermined the home ownership aspirations of thousands of home seekers.

Overreaction by the banks in the face of the Royal Commission only tightened conditions further.

The squeeze on housing finance has unfortunately come at a time when the industry was already slowing from high levels of activity throughout 2017 and 2018. The slowdown has accelerated, especially in the multi-unit sector of the market; a place where many find their first home. Recent experience has shown that when the industry is able to deliver plenty of supply, affordability can be kept in check.

HIA has developed a 10-point plan for the incoming government

The lack of coordination among the different levels of government is the root cause of many barriers to improving housing affordability. This is why for many years HIA has been calling for a Cabinet-level Minister for Housing. Housing issues are too important for the community and the health of the industry to have no voice in Cabinet. The declining rate of home ownership will create a negative impact on the social cohesion of our communities.

The incoming federal government will also need to focus on the key drivers of supply for the industry. HIA has developed a 10-point plan for the incoming government that focuses on skills, infrastructure, tax, population, land supply and ensuring the capacity of contractors to be able to run their own business.

The industry also has an important role to play in delivering affordable housing, especially for the 90 per cent of renters who want their own home and the security that brings. Members should push the HIA 10-point plan to their electoral candidates and engage with other industry colleagues to get them involved.

One other practical way all businesses in the industry can help is to underpin the future availability of skilled contractors by taking on an apprentice, or supporting those who do. Without sufficient numbers of well-trained tradespeople to build homes in the future, securing home ownership will remain a distant dream for many.

Securing our housing future is too important to be left to chance. Government and industry can, and should, work in partnership to deliver better housing outcomes, especially for first home buyers. HIA stands ready and willing to work with the incoming federal government to implement the HIA plan for meeting the aspirations of Australian home seekers.

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