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Vote for policies that:

  • will give an increase in public house stock
  • narrow the target group for who is eligible for a first home owners grant
  • support initiatives and incentives that result in affordable and sustainable housing.

The COMMON GOOD essentially means that EVERYONE has relatively easy access to what they need to live a fully human life - that is, to achieve their potential as human beings. It is absolutely evident that in Australia in 2004, thousands of Australians are denied an essential element of being able to achieve their full potential - namely -

safe, affordable and appropriate housing.

On the one hand we have had an extraordinary housing boom and on the other hand we have seen a significant decline in public housing and affordable housing.

The market and government are not serving the COMMON GOOD.

Increase in Public Housing Stock

What is the problem?

A substantial shift in housing support has taken place over the past decade away from the supply of low-cost public and community housing towards “in the pocket” financial assistance. The thinking behind this move has been to give low-income people rent assistance so that they can find suitable housing on the private rental market. In the ten years to 2003-04, Commonwealth spending on rent assistance has increased by 7% in real terms, while base grant funding to the States for low-cost housing has decreased by 54% - on top of a 25% fall in the ten years prior to that.

This decline in Government funding has come despite the fact that a number of inquiries, including the 1993 Industry Commission Report on Public Housing, have demonstrated conclusively that capital expenditure on public housing is the most cost-effective way of increasing access to affordable housing.

In fact, the strategy of forcing people into the private rental market is not working. Low-rent homes are increasingly difficult to find because landlords cannot get a good enough return on them. This is especially true in areas where jobs are available. When rents are increased to counter this, the houses are beyond the means of low-income people, even with rent assistance. People in the lowest 20% of incomes who are in the private rental market are paying up to 66% of their income in rent. They commonly go without food, clothing, heating, etc. to keep a roof over their heads. Into this low-income category come some of the most marginalised groups in our society – young people, elderly people, Indigenous Australians and single parents.

In addition to those suffering extreme housing stress in the private rental market, there are also some 200,000 people who are in boarding houses and caravan parks as well as more than 100,000 who are homeless on any given night.

What is SAO calling for?

SAO is calling for an increase in Commonwealth funding devoted to the provision of low-cost public housing.

First Home Owners Grant

What is the problem?

The First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) was introduced in 2000 to head off a downturn in the Australian economy. The idea was to stimulate the building industry. The strategy was partially successful in that it did help to kick-start the economy. But it also had side effects. Many grants went to higher-income households who simply brought forward their house purchase and who bought existing houses rather than building. The added demand for houses served to increase house prices, with the result that housing became less affordable.

The FHOG is available to all citizens or permanent residents who are purchasing or building their first home in Australia. It is a one-off grant of $7,000. The grant does not take into account the income of the applicant, the price of the home or whether the applicants own property overseas.

What is SAO calling for?

The SAO is calling for the FHOG to be available only to families earning below the median income and for dwellings below the median housing price in the area.

Affordable and Sustainable Housing

What is the problem?

Housing affordability is now at its worst-ever level according to a National Summit on Housing held in June 2004. Average house prices relative to incomes have almost doubled in the past ten years. The number of first home buyers has halved since 2001 and their share of new home loans has fallen from over 30% to under 20%.

It’s just as serious for renters. In 2001 less than ten percent of low-income households could afford to rent a three bedroom house in Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide. The situation in Brisbane was less serious at that time but median rents increased in Brisbane by 15% in the year to December 2003 as part of the local housing boom. Opportunities to rent public housing have fallen by about 20 percent in the past decade.

At the low-income end of the scale, the situation is at crisis point. More than 1.5 million people – three-quarters of a million families – are paying more than 30% of their income in rent. Over 100,000 people are homeless every night.

What is SAO calling for?

SAO is calling on candidates to support the range of measures designed to increase housing affordability, among them:

  • The building of more affordable housing, possibly using some model of government/private sector cooperation.
  • More support for people on low incomes who have bought their own homes.
  • The extension of the rental assistance scheme to cover all those in housing stress.

Some helpful links on the issue of Housing

 

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