There has been another flurry of stories this week about the continuing deterioration in housing affordability. Ron Silberberg from the Housing Industry Association said “this is a national crisis that requires a national response if a whole generation is not to be shut out of home ownership.” I’ve been calling for this repeatedly for years, as have many others from across the spectrum who work in the housing area.
My hometown newspaper, the Courier-Mail, has another story today about the problem. It quotes the Residential Development Council executive director Ross Elliott warning that virtually an entire generation will be unable to access home ownership. “Unless they get an inheritance or win lotto, Generation Y are basically going to be a rental generation.”
Our political system seems to be sleepwalking into a situation where the structural flaws in our housing markets are so deep that we will have an entrenched and very wide wealth divide which will become almost impossible to bridge.
There are various efforts being made to address aspects of the problem at the local government level in some areas, such as this recent proposal from Brisbane City Council, one and the Queensland Deputy Premier has just flagged some actions which might address bits of the problem.
This is not just a problem for the capital cities of course. Indeed, in some regional areas it is even worse. This story from last year says that just eight per cent of the housing stock in the northern Queensland city Mackay can be purchased by average income earners.
However, until we get a comprehensive national strategy which deals with the full range of options, and a federal government willing to take some responsibility for driving it, I doubt we’ll achieve much more than some relief at the edges while the problem deteriorates further. It’s possible the looming election may prompt the major parties to finally give the issue some serious attention, although it may also be that the looming election makes them want to keep it quietly in the too hard basket for that little bit longer. Given that this problem has been obvious and become ever more serious for at least the last five years, we may well be waiting a while yet.