OLIVER FRANKEL AND SUSAN RYAN. Monthly digest on housing affordability and homelessness – Feb/Mar 2019

This is the second monthly digest of interesting articles, research reports, policy announcements and other material relevant to housing stress/affordability and homelessness – with hypertext links to the source.

Tom Bamforth reviews “No Place Like Home: Repairing Australia’s Housing Crisis” by Peter Mares. The book analyses Australia’s growing urban inequality, and the radically diverging views about one of Australia’s most “wicked” socio-economic problems.

According to University of Adelaide Professor Chris Leishman, falling house prices do less to improve affordability than you might think. Once markets cool, people tend to stay where they are and wait for prices to improve. Bad news for aspiring home owners.

NSW pledges to halve rough sleepers by 2025, as part of Institute of Global Homelessness program. Why not commit to going all the way by 2029, says Property Council NSW. Many say that fixing the shortfall in supply of social housing properties is an essential part of the solution, though estimates of the shortfall differ widely.

Federal Government sponsored housing industry “roundtable” turns out to be selective and not round at all. Property lobby and vested commercial interests given privileged access to the PM and Treasurer, but not those who seek fundamental reform designed to ease housing stress.

Experts slam Josh Frydenberg’s “housing tax warning”, in which he is predicting that Labor’s proposed rollback of negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions will have a significant detrimental impact on the economy. The Grattan Institute estimates that the impact of such changes will be in the range of 1 to 2 per cent, which is small in the context of the increases in recent years.

Western Australia’s answer to housing affordability. KeyStart, a long-term lender now responsible for around half of first home purchases in WA, largely funded by the WA Government, requires deposits as low as 2%, without the need for mortgage insurance. This is a model definitely worth considering in other parts of Australia.

The University of Melbourne has announced a cross-disciplinary “Affordable Housing Hallmark Research Initiative”, bringing together researchers from architecture, urban planning, property economics, public health, geography, economics and sociology. This collaborative research initiative will address issues around design, planning, affordability, accessibility and use of housing, and involve a wide range of stakeholders.

Death of the great Australian dream? Housing affordability is a top concern for most Australians, second only to the cost of living and health and ageing, according to a poll commissioned by the HIA. Home ownership rates are falling among all age groups except for over 65s, and the sharpest falls are (unsurprisingly) among the young and poor. Nearly 3 in 4 of those surveyed believe that, in a generation, only the rich will be able to afford to buy a home in an area where they want to live.

The February 2019 City of Sydney street count shows 373 rough sleepers, a 13% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in the City of Sydneycompared to a year ago, demonstrating the challenges of reducing homelessness, given that 350 rough sleepers have been housed since the Martin Place tent city in 2017. The increase comes hard on the heels of the NSW Premier recently vowing to halve the number of rough sleepers in NSW by 2025.

Brokers for Change (B4C), a new online mortgage brokerage firm, will donate 20% of all mortgage commissions to homelessness, via StreetSmart, an umbrella charity that provides homelessness support nationwide, through community grants to smaller charities. An example of a business putting money where its corporate social responsibility mouth is.

A recent UNSW study by the City Futures Research Centre makes the economic case for government investment in social and affordable housing close to the city. It demonstrates the community-wide cost savings, and income and productivity benefits, of ensuring that there is adequate affordable housing at reasonable distances from where people work. Making the economic case might just help bolster the obvious social justice case.

An AHURI brief and related research examines how “greyfield” suburbs could provide a key to housing our growing population, with “market matching” technology putting groups of adjacent property owners in touch with developers, thereby lowering costs and improving returns for both. Precinct level development often makes better economic sense than small piecemeal development.

Vulnerable people need greater social housing support, according to a recent report by RMIT University and Unison Housing, which examines social housing tenancy turnover at Unison over the period from 2014 to 2016. Just under half of tenancies end within 18 months, which is considered a high “decay” rate. Most exits are due to negative reasons, such as rent arrears and conflict with neighbours.

The Game of Homes: how the vested interests lie about negative gearing. University of Queensland lecturer, Cameron Murray, debunks the Coalition’s scare campaign about the supposed impact of Labor’s proposed reforms to negative gearing and CGT. The article ends with an ominous Game of Thrones warning…Winter is coming.

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