Government housing policy not helping poor

Issue 
Current housing policy does not help homeless people get a home.

Tony Abbott’s government is gearing up for another budget, and much has been made about how to raise revenue and what to cut.

The government has toned down its previous rhetoric about a budget emergency, which appears to have disappeared despite the government failing to pass most of last year’s budget measures, but it still looks as if they will make the most disadvantaged pay while keeping things sweet for their mates in the big end of town.

One possible measure that has been raised is eliminating negative gearing, although commentators in the media, rather than either the government or opposition, have raised this. Eliminating negative gearing — which allows investors to offset their losses on rental properties and shares against other tax due — would have a dual effect. It would raise the revenue collected by the government, particularly from investment properties, and reduce the amount of competition for buying properties.

This would go some way to solving the housing problem, but a better solution would be to provide more public housing.

Domain reported on April 15 that despite a record number of investors buying property, there had been no downward effect on rents. Domain reported that median rents in Sydney for both houses and units are at an all time high.

The reason for this, , was “while the supply of investor property is on the rise it has not yet made up for 10 years or more of under-supply".

Taking a broader view of housing: on any given night one in 200 Australians are homeless, nearly half of all homeless are under the age of 25 and a quarter of all homeless are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Instead of looking at how to solve these problems and how to make housing in Australia more affordable for young Australians, the government seems intent on maintaining business as usual.

This is what happens when policy is developed through the prism of economics as opposed to what would be most beneficial for society, relying on the market to provide solutions to problems it is incapable or unwilling to solve.

There are alternatives to austerity and neoliberalism that do not currently get a wider hearing in Australian society but which you will find in the pages of Green Left Weekly.

For example, in Venezuela, in the past four years the government has provided 642,000 homes to poor Venezuelans. The homes, which were built under a project called the Great Housing Mission (GMV), have been provided free or at a very low cost depending on the income of the residents. The GMV was initially developed in response to devastating floods that hit the country in 2010, but has since been expanded to provide low cost housing. Based on current projections the department of planning estimates that by 2019 40% of Venezuelans will live in public housing.

The pages of Green Left Weekly bear that out locally as well as internationally. We bring perspectives that struggle to find a hearing in the mainstream press and host the discussions and debates that need to be had in order to create a fairer and more just society. It’s about making the links between the different people power movements and empowering people with the knowledge to challenge and take on the status quo.

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