Peak body: Housing affordability in top three federal election issues

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First homebuyers aren’t the only ones worried about housing affordability.

Housing affordability supposedly ranks as a top-three federal election issue, after the cost of living and healthcare and ageing, according to a survey by the Housing Industry Association.

Affordability ranked ahead of immigration and the environment, concluded the JWS Research which surveyed 1500 people.

“The importance of home ownership to Australians couldn’t be clearer. Now more than ever, home ownership matters,” the Housing Industry Association chief economist Tim Reardon noted.

Housing Industry Association principal economist Tim Reardon.

It comes as first home buyers have been more active in the market with Sydney housing around 10 per cent more affordable than this time last year.

A typical Sydney dwelling now costs $789,000, below the $884,000 it was early last year, according to CoreLogic. The biggest Sydney declines have been in the municipalities of Ryde and Canterbury-Bankstown.

Of course it is not just those aspiring to first home ownership that worry about affordability, as separate polling research in Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches indicated.

The concerns of Warringah voters focused around infrastructure, especially roads and traffic congestion, population growth, environmental concerns, but also housing affordability for their children.

The focus groups, sponsored by the University of Canberra’s Democracy 2025 project and conducted by Landscape Research, suggested older Warringah voters were more engaged, more readily able to discuss issues in federal politics, while younger voters have largely tuned out, feeling powerless.

Polling in Tony Abbott’s federal seat of Warringah indicates housing affordability could be an election issue.

Reardon said the Australian dream of owning a home was “still embedded in the psyche of Australians’’. He adds with a federal election imminent, it was important to recognise that 71 per cent of people believe governments have an important role in helping Australians achieve their dream.

Interestingly the HIA research found that home ownership was viewed as especially important to achieving financial stability in retirement. This comes as there’s continuing debate about whether first home buyers should be allowed to access their superannuation.

It flared again recently after a key recommendation from Kenneth Hayne’s Financial Services Inquiry.

Hayne says superannuation should be solely to look after Australians in retirement, not first home purchases.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne, who oversaw the Royal Commission into misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

Any incoming federal Labor government will accordingly phase out the Coalition government’s First Home Super Saver Scheme that allows first timers to access their super accounts.

Labor voted against the scheme when it was created in 2017, but assures current users of the scheme they will not be affected by their policy. It is one of many housing schemes ditched by governments in recent times as they come and go.

We have seen off the National Rental Affordability Scheme and the First Home Saver Account schemes too. I’d suggest one reason for the young voter feeling powerless was this constant changing tides with policy. Navigating the housing market with confidence, for any age, requires policy consistency from our federal leaders.

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