Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament
Housing affordability is a major political priority for both state governments and the Australian government. Treasurer Scott Morrison has announced an affordable housing taskforce, the New South Wales Government has announced a cross-government working group ‘to explore all options’ and the Victorian Government has announced policy changes including stamp duty changes and options for shared equity.
Concerns over housing affordability and home ownership are not new. Over the last fifteen years, there have been many inquiries and reports that have examined housing affordability, home ownership and related issues. The table below sets out some of the major inquiries and reports at the Commonwealth level.
Table 1: Inquiries and reports at the Commonwealth level
Inquiry or report
Reports commissioned for the Prime Minister’s Home Ownership Task Force
As chairman of the Menzies Research Centre, Malcolm Turnbull wrote a preface to the summary of findings of the reports, which included three detailed volumes (Innovative approaches to reducing the cost of home ownership, Policy options for housing low income households and Improving accessibility and flexibility of mortgage lending for Australians).
Productivity Commission inquiry into First Home Ownership
The Productivity Commission completed a report on first home ownership in 2004. The Government response rejected recommendations to review tax issues, including capital gains taxation, but supported recommendations for states and territories to improve supply.
Senate Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia
The Senate Select Committee was established and reported in 2008. It made 32 recommendations in a range of areas, including on Commonwealth policy, reforms at the state and territory level and in relation to particular regional issues.
In addition to the Government’s response, a 2012 response to a question on notice outlined the progress of implementing the inquiry’s recommendations.
The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness
While not directly focussed on housing affordability, the white paper on homelessness noted that ‘a shortage of affordable housing’ was one of multiple factors contributing to homelessness.
Australia’s Future Tax System (‘the Henry Review’)
The Henry Review included a specific discussion of housing affordability, including the effect of the tax system on housing affordability and the effect of non-tax policies on housing supply.
National Housing Supply Council reports
The National Housing Supply Council was established in 2008 and abolished in 2013. During its period of operation, it prepared a number of reports on housing supply and commissioned a range of research reports.
Council of Australian Governments Housing Supply and Affordability Report
In 2010 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) asked the Housing Supply and Affordability Reform Working Party to ‘report back on an examination of the housing supply pipeline and government policies that may act as barriers to supply or that stimulate demand for housing’.
As part of the discontinued Reform of the Federation White Paper process, the Government released Issues Paper 2 – Roles and Responsibilities in Housing and Homelessness
The paper raised a range of questions for consideration on housing policy, including on the topic of the split of responsibilities between Commonwealth and state and territory governments.
Senate Economics Committee inquiry into affordable housing
The Senate referred an inquiry into affordable housing to the Senate Economics References Committee in December 2013, and the final report was tabled in May 2015.
As at December 2016 the Government had not yet provided a final response.
House of Representatives inquiry into home ownership
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics inquiry into home ownership was announced in May2015, but lapsed with the dissolution of the Parliament in May2016. In November 2016 the Treasurer asked the Committee to inquire into and report on home ownership.
Council on Federal Financial Relations Affordable Housing Working Group Report to Heads of Treasuries
At the October 2015 meeting of the Council on Federal Financial Relations, Treasurers requested further work on housing affordability. An Affordable Housing Working Group was established in January 2016. A final report was delivered to Heads of Treasuries in November 2016. Treasurers agreed to the establishment of a bond aggregator taskforce, to report back by mid-2017. The Treasurer has since announced the establishment of a taskforce to ‘develop an affordable housing bond aggregator model for consideration by the Commonwealth and States and Territories’.
Former Treasurer Joe Hockey commented in 2015 on the potential to use early access to superannuation to assist with housing deposits, and media reports suggest that some form of access to superannuation for housing may be under consideration for the 2017–18 Budget. An earlier Parliamentary Library Flagpost lists a number of policy processes in the 1990s that considered the policy question of superannuation for housing.