More should be done on affordable housing

In his budget reply on Thursday, Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury made much of the role the Greens had had in shaping a territory budget that funded some important and worthy projects. But he also drew attention to a shortcoming in Labor’s 2017-18 budget: There is little in there to address affordable housing. Mr Rattenbury described this as the budget’s greatest gap and has urged the ACT to demonstrate leadership in tackling this issue and not to sit back and wait for the Commonwealth to remove negative gearing and capital gains tax.

Mr Rattenbury’s is not a voice from nowhere. Affordable housing has been identified for many months as one of the most urgent challenges facing a nation that risks locking a generation out of buying their own home. Apartments are still within reach for young professional couples in Canberra, but if you’re looking for a freestanding home with a backyard where you can bring up a family you will struggle anywhere but the fringes. To consign a generation to apartment living is not only a different economic equation in terms of an apartment’s capacity for capital growth, it’s a different social equation in terms of putting down roots in a place that you and your family can call home for many years to come, and a different environmental equation in terms of connection to land and ability make use of the soil around you.

None of these issues are trivial and the answers are, it goes without saying, complex. But the ACT is in a unique position with its hands on the levers. It largely controls the number of blocks that are sold, and it controls the price. It is within the power of an ACT government to make land available at price points that can accommodate a young couple or family on a moderate income.

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