VOX POP: Could affordable housing be the single most important issue facing us in the future?

Andrew Davis, President @ Australasian Housing Institute

“The high cost of housing in Australia has been at the forefront of a range of recent policy debates, with record numbers of both home owners and renters in housing stress. Yet, there is still no broad, nationally consistent affordable housing policy with multiple policy levers to address this, and that is a huge concern for Australia’s social and economic future.”

“Secure and affordable housing underpins the economic and social opportunities of Australian families, yet research shows there are a growing number of households on low to moderate incomes competing in the vastly undersupplied affordable rental market, placing huge downward pressure on state public housing systems that are already broken and unsustainable. Only a nationally consistent housing strategy based upon a bipartisan, long-term and whole-of-housing sector policy platform will deliver the required increase in social and affordable housing as the solution to the affordable housing crisis. The future prosperity of ordinary Australians depends upon it.”

Chris Chaplin, Consultant @ BRG Consulting, and Director (Victoria) @ Australasian Housing Institute

“For housing professionals, housing affordability is certainly a key issue. However, it’s never a good idea to stay in your silo. We need to be aware of and in many cases, lend our voice on – the broader issues that threaten our ability to pursue housing affordability. To my mind, the most critical issue is climate change”.

“The immediate impacts are accumulating already: extreme weather events that cause billions of dollars of damage (and, therefore, also indirectly impact on housing supply budgets), longer heatwaves that result in increased death rates among the most vulnerable cohorts (typically, our tenants), and our stuttering transition to a low-carbon economy, creating political instability and investment uncertainty.”

“But this is nothing compared to the existential threat if we fail to drastically and urgently reduce GHG emissions to safe levels. Once the tipping point is passed, no amount of finance or technology will avert the catastrophe. The emergency is here already. There’s no ‘housing affordability’ on an unaffordably hot planet.”

Michelle Moore-Fonseca, Head of Corporate Affairs and Communication @ SGCH

“I think housing affordability is one of the most important issues facing us now and, if we don’t seriously address it, the consequence we will face in the future is inequality. We are already seeing the effects on key workers facing long commutes, because where they can afford to live and where they need to work are becoming further and further apart. If we value vibrant cities, if we value inclusiveness and equal access to opportunity, then we need action.”

Vivienne Milligan, Visiting Senior Fellow, City Futures @ UNSW Sydney, and Director @ CHIA NSW

“On a 26-degree winter’s day in Sydney with the worst drought in living memory upon us, it’s a big call to say that housing affordability is the single most important issue facing us in the future! Definitely, housing is among the most-orphaned national policy issues that, consequently, has become a major political headache.”

“Writing in The Guardian, Peter Lewis (‘The government has walked away from social housing. Now we are paying the price’, 7th August 2018) highlighted 2018 voter surveys that showed housing affordability rated fourth in importance – behind cost-of-living (to which land rent and housing costs are major contributors) health and jobs. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed were worried about their rent/ mortgage payments, and three-quarters expected governments to do more to alleviate problems of housing affordability and homelessness (see https://www. theguardian.com/australia-news/series/the-guardian-essential-report).”

“Before we can begin to address this entrenched challenge, we have to understand its causes. After market failure, a chief culprit is governance failure. Lulled by earlier achievements (such as high home ownership rates and, in the main, decent housing), successive governments have denied that recent policies (especially tax concessions, financial deregulation, most first homebuyer schemes and social housing marginalisation) have progressively made things worse. Add to that the political ramifications of the vested interests of existing home owners and rent-vestors. Remember, John Howard said that no one complained to him about their house price?”

“Nothing less than a dedicated and permanent Cabinet portfolio can give government the capacity and robust advice it needs to reset the housing agenda. But then there’s political will. We may have to wait until Generation Rent is in charge for that to emerge.”

Ellis Blaikie, Project Officer @ CHIA NSW

“Our housing system is broken and, without major action, more and more people will find themselves without a safe, secure home that they can afford. How can we possibly expect people to go to school, hold down a job or get the healthcare and support they need if they don’t even have a roof over their head? Housing comes first.”