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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Focus on Housing

Focus on Housing

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To create a robust housing industry and the chance for Australians to attain home ownership, all levels and sides of government must work together

Michael Sukkar

Author

The great Australian dream of owning your own home is still an aspiration shared by millions of Australians from all walks of life, to this day.

I must say at the outset that as a Liberal, the importance of home ownership has been seared on my psyche. The founder of our great Party, Sir Robert Menzies, Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, outlined the importance of home ownership in this way:

‘One of the best instincts in us is that which induces us to have one little piece of earth with a house and a garden which is ours; to which we can withdraw, in which we can be among our friends, into which no stranger may come against our will’.

And he had remarkable success, with the Australian home ownership rate increasing from 52.6-72.5 per cent during his time as Prime Minister.

As the Minister for Housing in the former Coalition Government, I saw it as our mission to recapture this inspired example of Menzies. It seemed clear to me that the guideposts for maintaining Australia’s uniquely egalitarian character were right in front of us: ensuring home ownership was a realistic prospect for everyday Australians.

This is what motivated me and my team each and every day. It still does so today.

And while our emphasis on home ownership has often been an uncontroversial position, it is becoming more contested today. Under successive state and federal Labor Governments we have seen less emphasis, or practical action to encourage private home ownership.

This is in contrast with the former Coalition Government who had an intent focus on improving the prospects of first home buyers

The Hon Michael Sukkar MP, Shadow Minister for Social Services, the NDIS,Housing and Homelessness

From a raft of programs (such as the hugely successful Home Guarantee Schemes, HomeBuilder program and First Home Super Saver Scheme) the number of first home buyers on our watch increased from approximately 100,000 per year when we came to office, to 180,000 in our last full year in government.

This showed, beyond any doubt, that a federal government focused on home ownership can get results.

We also used housing policy to address other important policy objectives. When the term ‘valley of death’ was the grim assessment for the residential construction industry with 500,000 jobs at risk at the beginning of the pandemic, we put in place the HomeBuilder program.

The program which (at that time) provided $25,000 for those who built a new home (derided by the then Labor Opposition) resulted in 137,000 HomeBuilder projects, generating $120 billion of economic activity.

Far from seeing jobs lost in the residential construction industry, we saw the industry boom. This was the perfect marriage between economic stimulus and our ongoing objective to support and encourage more first home buyers.

We also see the need to take a step further in supporting first home buyers. That’s why the Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, in his budget-in-reply speech reaffirmed our Super Home Buyer Scheme policy. This will allow first home buyers to invest up to $50,000 of their superannuation to help with the purchase of their first home.

All of this background is important because I want to emphasise our commitment to home ownership continues to be the position of the Opposition today.

As for the Albanese Government, we will responsibly support any good measures to improve housing and homelessness outcomes.

Far from seeing jobs lost in the residential construction industry, wesaw the industry boom
We will keep fighting for aspirational Australians who want to own ahome, or a secure home for rent

Pleasingly, the Government has provided support for the Coalition’s Home Guarantee Scheme and the National Housing Finance & Investment Corporation (soon to be renamed Housing Australia). Indeed, NHFIC proved to be a landmark Coalition achievement, providing $2.9 billion of low-cost loans to community housing providers which supported more than 20,000 social and affordable dwellings.

However, the Government has already failed to deliver its key housing election commitment, the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, by its nominated start date of 1 January. Notwithstanding the limited and niche nature of this relatively vanilla shared equity product, most would agree that election policies should be delivered in the time promised.

Great uncertainty also remains in relation to the Government’s Housing Australia Future Fund, particularly due to its lack of funding certainty, detailed costings or implementation plan.

And there are many question marks around the Government’s headline-grabbing Budget ‘aspiration’ to build one million homes over five years from mid-2024. If you dig a little deeper, and as many in the industry already know, one million homes over five years is just business as usual.

With first home buyers lower, rents rising and a more difficult construction environment, things are set to get worse, not better. As a responsible Opposition we will keep fighting for aspirational Australians who want to own a home, or a secure home to rent. And as we did in Government, we will respect the industry that builds those homes and which makes these aspirations a reality.

In the November 2022 edition of Housing, we spoke with the Hon Julie Collins, Minister for Housing, Homelessness and Small Business, on the federal government’s plans for the housing portfolio over the next several years.

Go to page 56 or visit Big targets to read the article.

Published on 16 Feb 2023

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