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Election result ushers in new era for housing policy

For the property sector that employs 1.4 million people and impacts every family and person in the nation, the election result represents a major transition in housing policy.

Australia's new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, raises his hands at the lectern during his victory speech.
Aspiring home owners will be eagerly awaiting signs that new prime minister Anthony Albanese can indeed deliver them a better future.

Australia this weekend chose a new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and installed arguably its most politically diverse government in history.

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) sits on the verge of acquiring the 76 seats that will allow it to govern in its own right, after a massive swing away from the Liberal-National Coalition ensured Mr Albanese became the country’s 31st prime minister.

Scott Morrison has quit as Liberal Party leader, with former defence minister Peter Dutton likely to replace him unopposed.

For the property sector that employs 1.4 million people and impacts every family and person in the nation, the election result represents a major transition in housing policy.

Affordability for renters and buyers alike was one of the defining issues of a long campaign.

Superannuation accounts around the country will no longer be a tool to be raided for home ownership. The government of Scott Morrison had proposed lowering the age threshold for those who could access downsizing contributions to superannuation. A second policy was a scheme that would allow Australians to borrow up to 40 per cent of their superannuation to purchase their first home (capped at up to $50,000).

But it is the Labor Government that will now dictate terms, with tackling homelessness and a home equity scheme, whereby the government effectively co-owns a property with first-home buyers, the key planks of its housing focus.

Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) President Hayden Groves said vital policies such as the ‘Help to Buy’ but also the ‘Help to Supply’ announcement with the National Housing and Homelessness Plan are a critical priority.

“We applaud the commitment to develop the National Housing and Homelessness Plan, which is badly needed, as well as the innovative solutions to unlock supply.

“An evidence-based approach to a National Supply and Affordability Council with the right objective experts – including real estate practitioners – should provide a proper annual benchmark for Australia’s supply crunch.”

Mr Groves also said he looked forward to working with the incoming government on the Help to Buy initiative.

“The proposed KeyStart-style program help to buy for 10,000 eligible low and middle-income earners a year is a sensible thing and REIA has supported the development of a feasibility study for a national KeyStart style program in the past,” Mr Groves said.

Property Council of Australia Chief Executive Ken Morrison said they would work with the government to address the affordability crisis.

“We look forward to working with an Albanese Government on the pressing issues of housing affordability, the skills challenges facing business and helping our cities and suburbs thrive.”

In the lead-up to the election, both major parties were criticised for tackling housing affordability from the demand perspective, by helping those for whom the property ladder was a rung too high. They failed, however, to tackle the problem of a lack of supply of new homes.

Housing affordability is the political fault line in Australia right now and I think we’ve overlooked that.

- Former Victorian Liberal Deputy State Director Tony Barry

Steve Douglas, Executive Chairman of SMATS Group, which owns the aussieproperty.com company, said supply remained the primary challenge for the Labor government if it was to make any inroads in seriously reigning in the lack of affordability confronting first-home buyers and others looking to improve their housing situation.

“We need more supply, more land; medium high density quality living - not small sized apartments, but properties of a decent size - so some policy changes at state and federal level are needed to make it easier to develop, along with some asset release, removal of massively high stamp duty and GST on new housing are the only ways to fix this,” he said.

“It’s important to encourage downsizing by older Australians to free up larger properties for families, to improve road and rail infrastructure to green land sites, and to encourage movement to satellite cities, such as Sydney’s Parramatta and Perth’s Joondalup, through job creation and the provision of community facilities.”

Can the Liberals regroup?

In the wake of the election carnage that saw both parties’ primary voted diminished, it was the Coalition that suffered the most.

It lost blue ribbon seats held by senior party members but it often wasn’t the Labor party doing the damage.

A lot of the seats the Coalition lost were on big margins and had never been lost before, but they fell to independents, known as the ‘teal wave’, and at least one seat went to the Greens.

Key factors in their demise were seen to be a lack of popularity among women voters that has prompted calls for quotas within the party, and a perceived lack of interest in seriously tackling climate change, which was frequently cited as the highest priority among voters.

But housing, along with cost of living, were also major issues the public never saw adequately addressed during their terms in office.

Former Victorian Liberal Deputy State Director Tony Barry claimed the Liberals had lost their base.

“It is a teal bath,” he said.

“The party needs to redefine and go back to its original roots and the aspirational class, the outer suburbs – housing affordability is the political fault line in Australia right now and I think we’ve overlooked that.

“The great thing about housing affordability, which I think is impacting enormously, is you can’t create conservatives if they have got nothing to conserve.

“If you don’t own a house, you can’t conserve.

“That’s our natural constituents and we need to get back to that.”

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