Have your say: What can be done to improve housing affordability?

| April 26, 2017

The New South Wales Government recognises housing affordability as one of the most important issues for the future of the state. To help address this issue, institute for active policy Global Access Partners (GAP) is hosting an online consultation on Open Forum to give the community an opportunity to voice their opinions and suggest possible solutions. We invite your comments on the following:

Q: What can be done to improve housing affordability?

The housing affordability consultation is open to the general public including homeowners, future homebuyers, tenants, developers, real estate agents, lawyers and academics who have experience and understanding of the issues facing those seeking to purchase property. Larger organisations and key stakeholder bodies are also invited to contribute.

Please submit your comment below or email housing@openforum.com.au. Contributions close Thursday 8 June, 2017 at midday AEST.



DISCLAIMER: The comments published below represent a wide range of views and interests of the participating individuals and organisations. Statements made during online discussions are the personal opinions of the commentators and do not necessarily reflect those of the NSW Government or Open Forum. Open Forum, at all times and at its absolute discretion, reserves the right to remove offensive comments from the Housing Affordability Online Consultation. For your reference, any comments/messages that are offensive for the online consultation would include any or all of the following: breach of privacy, defamatory content, profane content, risk of contempt of court, racial and religious hatred/vilification, confidentiality concerns.

Open Forum is an interactive policy discussion website hosted and moderated by Global Access Partners (GAP).


  1. Stewart Nattrass

    Stewart Nattrass

    May 3, 2017 at 12:39 am

    At the time of the GFC, real estate in the USA tumbled, and if the same happened in Australia it would severely test the viability of our banking system. Not coincidently there was at the same time an influx of international money from Asia, specifically from China, investing into the domestic housing market. I think this one event saved Australia from a catastrophe.
    Almost 10 years on I think it is time to review international participation in Australian domestic housing. Many overseas country mandate that only residents can buy and own residential property.
    There are many other avenues for the world to invest in Australia ie the stock market. The pressure on our limited hosing stock being exerted from international speculation needs to be reeled in. We should take the lead from other countries and insist that only residents can purchase individual dwelling.

  2. Baz01

    May 3, 2017 at 8:37 am

    There is no doubt that the most effective way to improve housing affordability is to increase supply (i.e. release more land)… All other measures are like double-edged swords; some may even have a negative effect on affordability… The NSW Premier got it right in the first place!

    • nmcgregor

      May 22, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      I agree with Baz01, also creating smaller dwellings that are better built, rather than massive oversized properties that are just too big is another issue, when you look workers cottages going back how many people could fit into one small property and still function not always well but just as dysfunctionally today. When you read the ragged trousered philanthropists and those that couldn’t afford to live rented out their rooms, not that we want to go back to that way of living. There are so many facets to this issue. The cost of housing, the types of buildings that are built the materials that are used the waste in the industry. Then there is the lack of wages growth at the bottom end (e.g. 49 and not had a wage increase in 13 years), making properties unattainable and unaffordable. Our obsession with home ownership, but the lack of protection for renters and landlords which has created uneasy relationships, mismanagement by real estates. The lack of help with housing by consecutive governments both state and federally selling off public homes to private buyers at premiums and not building more stock to increase demand, and not building sustainable properties that are well built that help the tenant to live comfortably. Gosford Council has taken the initiative to building a group of small dwelling properties for lower income. When governments stop pandering to the rich and offsetting their taxes with negative gearing which only works for those who have too much money and so need create losses to increase their tax returns and governments start investing in those of us that are the working poor and those of us who cannot find work because of lack of jobs to those of us who are in the poverty cycle of social welfare and the pick up the slack and provide to the lower end of society rather than propping up the higher end of earners reinvesting in smaller properties that offer quality living rather than quantity invest back into the community then housing issue could be lessened, but until these steps are acknowledged and we have a government that cares socially nothing will change and the talking and waffling will continue while more and more of us are pushed out onto the streets – like Dickensian England.

  3. Terrence Bondfield

    Terrence Bondfield

    May 8, 2017 at 4:10 am

    I suggest the answer to this issue, is a cross between public and private housing. The Commonwealth and State both have redundant or semi redundant land in the Sydney and Melbourne basins.
    For example the Orchard Hills defence site in Penrith NSW has been long muted to be relocated to the Nowra defence area. This site is vast in size and was developed during WW as a munitions holding area and training area for the RAAF and RAN. The use now has been downgraded and is suitable for housing.

    First home buyers could buy in only for the cost of building a home and if the State foregoes stamp duty it would allow first home buyers into ownership for under $300.000. The house prices could be of a competitive nature and be pegged , so that first home buyers don’t get into the trap of building MacMansions, therefore trying to service a $600,000 plus mortgage debt.

    The lease hold arrangement is a crossover between Public and Private home ownership with the leasehold being available for a 30-50 year period. At a future date the Commonwealth decides that the lessee can purchase the land that would be decided once the home mortgage has been reduced or is paid out.

    The buy cost is low for the home owner and the mortgage is also affordable. Orchard Hills for example is located within Penrith City and has all the amenities available including public transport, major regional hospital and general services and is in close proximity to the new international airport under construction, where jobs within the airport and with service industries would become available in the not too distant future.

    Housing costs can be very affordable, as an example is Perry Homes from Maitland near Newcastle or MacDonald Homes NSW can sell a home and land package on the north coast for around $350.000-$3750.000 for a four bed, two bath, double garage including fit out. If you take out the land value, these people are constructing a home for around $200.000. Very affordable for new home buyers in the metropolitan market. Their repayments taken on today’s interest rate would only be around $200.00-$300.00 per week. Less that any rental in Sydney or Melbourne.

    As stated, the land purchase is deferred until the home construction mortgage is paid out or considerably reduced, and until that occurs the land is under lease at a nominal figure which is deducted off the purchase price at the future date.

    This solves the issue of building public housing for those who are in jobs and can afford a mortgage, and lets those the funds go into providing housing for the much needed homeless people in our society.

  4. BobOfAlex

    May 8, 2017 at 4:43 am

    All of these have been discussed by various economists
    1 Scrap stamp duty which limits housing market liquidity. Revenue neutrality could be achieved via an annual property tax, wealth tax or death duties.
    2 Negative gearing possibilities:
    * Phase out (say over 10 years?)
    * Could maintain for new construction only
    *Limit to one investment property only
    3 Capital gains tax concession – progressively abolish.

  5. Michael Gill

    Michael Gill

    May 9, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Short points:
    – force banks to remove the 20% deposit limit to avoid bank insurance thereby reducing mortgage repayments for first time buyers.
    – Make stamp duty voucher based or repairs, furniture and moving costs
    – Increase supply by targeting large disputed building sites are not left idle and vacant for years
    – Provide employment incentives to encourage people to move and buy in to regional towns.
    – Stop or limit the growth of short term contract jobs (teaching) in favour of permanent full time positions thereby increasing financial security for first home buyers.

  6. Anne Fritz

    Anne Fritz

    May 11, 2017 at 1:51 am

    Fifty years ago I walked along Watsons Bay Beach and marvelled at the egalitarian nature of the housing there. Old workers’ cottages next to new houses, next to older style apartment blocks, ensured that people not able to afford the expensive houses could still rent and live in this magical and beautiful harbourside position. That is the Australia to which we still can aspire.

    Of course today there are many more people living in Sydney, and many more still are expected to arrive. The Eastern Suburbs have become an enclave unaffordable by the children of the very people who lived in those houses by the bay, fifty years ago.

    The current issue of housing affordability needs to be addressed from several different directions, at the same time. None of these ideas are new or immediately able to be fulfilled, but they must be on the planning board.

    If Sydney is to be ready for a large increase in its population, many more houses and apartments need to be built – that much is clear; a good future for our building industry. The increase may be upwards (in city centres) and outwards, into satellite towns which provide their own work opportunities (e.g. Badgery’s creek).

    Communication and transport is obviously also needed. Fast trains and light rail are current options, and will become more financially viable as population density increases. This indicates the need for Government investment and will yield new work opportunities outside the city centre.

    Focusing on the affordability aspect, here are some additional suggestions – not new but necessary, together.
    • A foreign investor tax, to take the heat off the rapid real estate price escalation due to take-up by non-residents.
    • A gradual decrease in negative gearing on investment properties.
    • A gradual decrease in the discount offered on the capital increase tax.
    • The building of social housing, for rental and eventual purchase (as with cars). Any new building areas need to planned with social services, work opportunities and transport infrastructure ready before building is complete (not the usual!!!) Some of the taxation income from the options above will contribute to the new builds.

  7. Andrew Paul

    May 12, 2017 at 12:00 am

    The US and UK have the right idea with Community Land Trusts. See my article at http://communitylandtrust.com.au/index.php/2017/05/11/2017-federal-budget/ hope you enjoy.

  8. Jacques De la Haye

    May 12, 2017 at 3:15 am

    The same goes for most nations: the lack of affordable housing is becoming a tremendous problem, world wide. Somehow there is a tendency that developers build predominantly for the upper-mid and high end of the market. Make entry levels easier and lower, let people rent with an option to buy with rents partly counted as the down payment for the flat, condo or house (5yrs rent: 1.yr 75%, second 60, 3. 40 and 4. and 5. yr 25% of the rent over that year counting as part of the equity. Much more must be done for the lower income families to rent or buy a decent house. Give those people to the million$ feeling home even when it cost just 600 per month.

  9. Laurie Newman

    May 16, 2017 at 6:43 am

    The ANZ-Property Council Survey showed that 12 months to Sept 2016 approx 25% of all Sydney houses, new and existing, were sold to foreign investors. RBA data shows investor borrowing in 2016 was 61% of all housing borrowing. Combined these statistics show that the Government needs to take measures to remove the attractiveness of investing in housing and like other countries, restrict or eliminate foreign buyers. Demand will therefore decrease and prices move back towards greater affordability.

  10. arcobelina

    May 16, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Governments must resume creating a viable public housing stock for the poorest in society. Creating public housing takes those tenants out of the private housing rental market which will result in lowering rentals for those trying to save to buy their own home. The numbers where this would be effective are rather large, Sydney would need 50,000 government houses. Melbourn & Brisbane similar and the housing should also be built throughout regional areas.

  11. johncunno

    May 16, 2017 at 8:12 am

    In addition to my article attached to this survey i am very concerned that within the NSW Governments solutions package they have identified that new medium density design is required to provide for the missing middle of Sydney, however they have not seen fit to actually implement zoning changes at a state level to put it into effect. by leaving this decision to local government they will fall into the same trap of MIMBYISM that has plagued NSW for far to long. creative design suffers, housing choice suffers and we end up in the same cycle of sameness and lack of choice for property consumers. get the missing middle right and you get people moving again which is one of the biggest causes of the affordability issue, a clogged supply chain to get the over 55’s moving. The NSW government needs to act at a State level and bring in a new version of SEPP 10 ( dual Occupancy ) in the format of medium density multiple occupancy provisions.

  12. Ian Bersten

    May 17, 2017 at 12:35 am

    My first suggestion is that small mass produced houses tastefully made are located at the edge of public parks. The parks should be carefully selected with an index of usage. For instance, Callan Park Rozelle has 99 acres – a lot of which is a green slope, on which I have never seen more than 4 people and 2 dogs at any time. Some of this land on the high side could be utilized for small 1, 2, 3 bedroom dwellings using that park as the grounds. For compensation for taking public park. The CW could use ground elsewhere to replace it. There are hundreds of parks around Sydney which are hardly used and they could have 1, 2 and 3 storey high flats built on the edges using the park as backyard etc.
    The land is never sold with the flats but a land rental is applied and the flats can be sold for people whose income levels would not allow them to buy houses but who work ion jobs that are needed in the city – nurses, teachers, etc.
    My second suggestion is that mass produced 1, 2 and 3 bedroom flats are made such that they be inserted by crane into a steel or concrete frame with a central corridor to provide access to all units. The units will have a capital cost which is the purchase price to the buyer. The block of land is separately owned – such that $1,000,000 block of land can support say 12 units. With services included this would be less than $100,000 for the land for each unit and this could be owned separately and rented at say 5% return or less than $100/week. The ground floor could contain parking and a laundry and other facilities.

  13. Bill Boyd

    Bill Boyd

    May 17, 2017 at 1:03 am

    the housing affordability problem comes about from investor greed not a shortage of suitable housing or elders living in a house too large or ostentatious
    what is need is a massive shift in attitude from politicians , bankers , real estate professionals
    Negative gearing changes are what will drive the solution to the problem
    Negative should now be restricted to first home buyers living in that home while they are paying it off
    New or second hand and being allowed to claim for all improvements on the house as a tax deduction while living in the house will eliminate all of the rorts and price driving investments Move out to rent somewhere else = no negative gearing tax deduction allowed
    If a person wants an investment- play on the stockmarket-buy a business
    if a person wants to rent , there are plenty of places across Australia than are currently vacant because there are no jobs for the people to be afford to rent
    considering that people are now paying as much for rent as they would be paying for a house , there is no way that a deposit can be achieved but if the negative gearing was restricted to owner occupiers only then there would be a very good chance that there would be a need for new housing
    For owners already using negative gearing , that could be changed to a deduction for tax purposes ( maintenance only and not invest in other properties )
    Australia should follow other countries and enforce the law– not a resident cannot own property in any form–lease for personal use only
    forget the property values will crash hysteria as rented properties will still be around and those investors will still be able to sell the property at the current market value as now there will be more people wanting to buy housing because they will be getting a purpose designed tax deductiion allowing them to purchase
    housing is an investment for the family to provbide care and comfort and should not be considered the sacred relumn of the wealthy to foster their greed
    Basically it comes down to this —you can only live in one home at a time and as that home is a huge expense to an average worker, then there should be a tax deduction for repayments and maintanance , the same as is allowed for investors– after all it is a family investment in the property is it not ?

  14. Bongo drum

    May 17, 2017 at 4:54 am

    The major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and now Brisbane seem to be trying to follow an Asian
    system of more and more high rise apartments with little thought to resulting congestion of traffic,
    people and overuse of facilities such as hospitals and schools.
    The issue here is not housing affordability but what populations can our cities accommodate.

    Cities such as London, Paris, New York etc don’t focus on more and more affordable housing for
    their populations to buy into with those who want and need to live in these cities most often renting.
    If people living in these countries want to buy an affordable house with garden space for families,
    they tend to move out of the city areas and settle in regional areas.
    The answer in Australia is that if people want the free standing house and backyard, then regional
    areas in NSW such as Newcastle/ Wollongong/ Port Macquarie/ Coffs Harbour etc offer great
    affordable housing and lifestyle for families and are in need of populations to grow their economies.
    There are job prospects in these regions and the ratio of job salaries to mortgage repayments is
    better for younger families.
    The problem seems to be a political focus on the major cities with no thought to alternatives
    on offer else where.
    Think regional and not metropolitan and stop this over development of our cities before we loose
    sight of what being in Australia is all about.

  15. Teresa Kiernan

    Teresa Kiernan

    May 17, 2017 at 6:54 am

    – Address capital gains tax and negative gearing.
    – Use tax disincentives for investors, not fines, fees and subsidies. Wealthy entities don’t care about fines and fees, and pass these costs down to customers. Subsidies, such as the First Home Buyers Grant, simply increase prices. Tax is a raked and ongoing percentage subtraction of profits which cannot be passed over to customers as price, because customers could not afford to pay it.
    – Address massive and rapid immigration (boosting demand).
    – Address lack of regulation in the economy.
    – Address the decline in wage growth by encouraging employers via the Fair Work Act to facilitate employees working two or three jobs.

  16. Astrid Vasile

    May 19, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Open more land by Government – for residential. Remove some of the Planning Restrictions, Removed cost associate of obtaining licence, and providing the Infrastructure.

  17. Antoinette Colbran

    May 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I think we have to be incredibly mindful of the impact on housing affordability that foreign investment has in our locality. It is a simple ‘supply and demand’ ratio. In my own case having owned previously in Sydney, through massive financial change, that gap has widened for my family ostensibly. For the first home buyer, we should always legislate to allow incentives for these people who honestly want to fulfil their dream of owning their home. Despite what some opinion suggests – owning a home does provide security – and that it just as big in the psychological space as it is financially. Change the planning rules and allow the spread of housing is the first port of call also.

  18. Bina Narula

    May 19, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    What is definition the “affordable housing” given you are hosting this forum?

    To limit foreign ownership of “affordable housing” would be a tremendous start. Despite existing laws, most new housing gets snapped up by foreign investors especially from China who are very apt at working around the system and exploiting loop holes in the current laws. Then to make matters worse, these dwellings after they are aquired sit unoccupied creating a significant squeeze in the rental market too.
    There is a lack of monitoring of buyers of affordable housing.
    I understand the Federal budget is addressing this issue.
    I will have to see it to believe it!

    • editor


      May 19, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Bina, thanks for your question about a definition. Affordable housing and housing affordability are often used interchangeably. Housing Affordability usually highlights the relationship between expenditure on housing versus household incomes. Often first homebuyers are referred to but we have also extended our consultation to empty nesters and others who are feeling the effects reflecting the current debate in 2017.

      On the other hand affordable housing refers to low-income or social housing.

      On our website there’s a great blog from Justin Douglas from the NSW Department of Planning who outlines how the perceptions of housing affordability have changed over the time – http://www.openforum.com.au/understanding-housing-affordability/

      Thanks for your comments too. We really appreciate you taking the time to have your say!

  19. Karen R Levin

    May 22, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    I am involved in one of the largest redevelopment areas in Australia – Green Square and South Sydney and one of the biggest issues is empty investment purchases. There should be a strict rule against overseas buyers buying property and then leaving them empty. Around Green Square, Mascot etc and in all the new apartments, there are units left empty…. this has a shocking effect on housing affordability – I know of developers who have researched and filmed unit buildings around the area and proved the empty percentages are high. If this is going on all over NSW, of course it effects availabiltiy for rental or purchase. There should be some form of objection. I know a two storey brand new house in Maroubra, worth well over a million, that has been empty for at least 6 years. Ridiculous!

  20. Neighbours Not Strangers

    May 23, 2017 at 4:51 am

    NSW currently has 58,250 residential homes listed for rent to tourists/visitors from every country (except North Korea, Syria and Iran) via Airbnb/Expedia. There are hundreds of other Internet Platforms in the space offering an unknown number of other homes. These are properties which are no longe available to NSW Residents/Families for rent. The State Government must put aside the profits of MPs who are earning major amounts of money from this practise plus the money being paid to former/present MPs to lobby on behalf of Airbnb/Expedia and see to it that Local Government Authorities are mandated to enforce Planning/Zoning legislation. Residential Housing is for the Housing of Residents. Our Report (9/5/17) to the NSW Government on this issue can be found at: https://www.neighboursnotstrangers.com/single-post/2017/05/09/Give-Us-Your-Homes-The-Rise-and-Rise-of-Short-Term-Letting-in-New-South-Wales

  21. Joanne Seve

    May 23, 2017 at 8:34 am

    My background and area of practice is in State Taxes.
    Housing affordability concerns residential land and its cost of purchase by, or lease to, occupants.
    Demand and supply are critical factors and State Taxes affect demand and supply.
    State Governments should be monitoring and managing this.
    Successive State Governments collecting and reporting on windfalls in State Revenues from State Taxes, without actively adjusting the rates of those taxes to manage impact, is like a beast that is feeding on itself.
    Eventually, there comes a time when the consequences must cause it to stop.
    NSW has not addressed Stamp Duty bracket creep for over 30 years. This has been a contributing cause of housing unaffordability.
    Addressing Stamp Duty bracket creep need not require compensatory measures. Being a transaction tax, reduction in rates of Transfer Duty stimulates turnover maintaining revenue so that it can itself be revenue neutral.
    Annual indexation of the NSW land tax threshold has been inadequate to address the increases in land tax payable by investors, fuelled by exponential growth in land values. Investors are compelled to increase rents which have become unaffordable for many residents.
    State Governments must be more active in their management of State Taxes by regularly reviewing and appropriately adjusting their Stamp Duty and Land Tax rates affecting housing.

  22. Anne Fritz

    Anne Fritz

    May 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Australians are an inventive people – from the stump jump plough to the bionic ear and 3D printed solar cells – but its organisations are terribly conservative.

    When – sixty years ago – my father, who was an award winning inventor in Hungary, and who worked on refining lightweight prefabricated building panels which were used to build whole communities in both Hungary and Israel at that time, came to Australia and proposed to continue his work, the Master Builders Association (or whatever they were called at the time) explained to him that his inventions had no future in Australia because there are regulations as to how much weight of concrete needs to be in every cubic measure of wall. Lightweight concrete could never be used in Australia!

    Even now it is only available as bricks and blocks.

    So – sixty years after Europe had started to make good use of lightweight prefabricated building panels – it may be time for the Australian government to take the initiative and build social housing using components that are economical, lightweight, strong, waterproof and excellent insulators.

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