Housing Affordability - Private Member's Statement

4th April 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 21:12 :23 ): As I stand here in the Parliament today, the cost of buying a home in my electorate of Lake Macquarie slips further from the reach of yet another family. According to property monitoring services Domain and RP Data, the median house price in the area will creep over half a million dollars in the coming months. Double digit annual growth has been the norm in some suburbs for many years and while that median price may seem relatively lame compared to those in Sydney, it is among the highest median prices in regional Australia. Average incomes in my area, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, are well short of what is required to buy a house in that median range. This all adds up to the fact that the great Australian dream is being moved further and further away from young people and families.

Increasingly, people are turning to shared, subsidised or social housing to find a way of putting an affordable roof over their heads. As we know, that is not easy. My electorate, which has one of the highest median house prices, also has the longest waiting list for public housing. The latest data from Family and Community Services shows that the waiting list for social housing in my electorate is among the longest in the State. The current waiting time for a one-bedroom, two-bedroom or three-bedroom home in Lake Macquarie is more than 10 years. It is only slightly shorter for those seeking a four-bedroom home. There is a large and growing population in Lake Macquarie. People choose to live there because it is located between the major employment centres of Sydney and Newcastle and the cost of building a home is somewhat cheaper than it is in those major cities. As it stands, less than 10 per cent of those on public housing waiting lists in Lake Macquarie are actually being housed each year.

I have applauded recent initiatives taken by the Government. Recently it introduced the Social and Affordable Housing Fund, which is expected to provide about 3,000 much-needed additional homes for the socially or financially disadvantaged throughout New South Wales.

The scheme is widely lauded by non-government agencies and housing advocacy groups in my electorate. However, this approach is a bit like attacking a bushfire with a garden hose. We must do more and we must start thinking outside the square. We must start looking at innovative ways to provide affordable housing and to run programs that will allow more people to realise that dream of owning their own home or, at the very least, putting an affordable roof over their heads.

Without question, we must look at housing densities in our existing communities, and the red tape and stamp duties that are adding to the price of a home across this State. We must look at negative gearing and the private investment sector, which is also having significant impacts on the availability and affordability of housing. As we know, buying a first home has become increasingly difficult. While there have been some good policies such as stamp duty exemptions, First Home Owner Grants, new land releases and unit developments , the problem is growing.

I recently moved a motion in this place to discuss a range of issues impacting on housing affordability, including possible short- to medium-term accommodation options in under-utilised government buildings. A number of buildings in my electorate alone could be used to provide managed, crisis accommodation for those in need. An array of unused buildings at the old Morisset Hospital—where I once worked—is among them. If managed properly, they could provide short-term accommodation at low cost to those who need it.

We must do something different. Other elements of that debate should include a proper investigation of the impacts of negative gearing, and even the possibility of an equity buy-in scheme for renters. We should be looking at potential partnerships between buyers, developers, financial institutions, and government. These are not new ideas. However, they are ideas that I believe have sat for too long on the sidelines while the problems continues to worsen. Buy-in schemes were last discussed at a national level when former Prime Minister John Howard received the final report from his housing taskforce. It was later endorsed by the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but very little is being done at a national level, while the efforts at the state level are only marginally better.

We must discuss the option of superannuation schemes investing in the housing market. All of these schemes carry risks, and among those risks is sending housing prices further skyward. However, we must have these discussions and break this seemingly endless cycle of house prices continually moving beyond the reach of more and more people, of people waiting decades for social housing, and of people simply not finding a roof to put over their heads. If we do not, the great Australian dream will have become the great Australian shame.

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