Governments fail to tackle Australia's housing crisis

Housing is primarily a source of investment by the wealthy in this country — not a basic social right.
Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sydney may be in the grip of an apartment boom, but the construction of thousands of units across the city has done little to put a lid on rents, according to an analysis of the latest rental data.

Apartment living became more expensive in Sydney in the year to September 2016, after rent increases in all but three of the city's local government areas, according to the NSW Tenants' Union Rent Tracker report.

Tenants' Union advocacy and research officer Leo Patterson Ross said: "Apartment rents are growing faster than house rents at the moment."

Median rents for flats and apartments are running at well over $500 per week in Sydney. That is almost twice the current basic payment rate for the unemployment benefit of around $530 per fortnight.

The median price of houses in Sydney has reached $1.1 million and, even more alarming, only 8% of housing purchases last year were to first-time new home buyers.

This emphasises the fact that housing is primarily a source of investment by the wealthy in this country — not a basic social right, as it should be. The fabled "Australian dream" of owning your own home is fast becoming a nightmare.

Meanwhile, the NSW and other state governments are moving to sell off public housing stock, rather than constructing thousands more government-owned homes to attempt to meet the huge waiting lists for public housing all around the country.

There is an alternative to the pro-corporate housing policies of the major parties. Socialist Alliance is totally opposed to the federal and state governments' privatisation of public housing and giving big hand-outs to developers and private landlords from the public purse.

Socialist Alliance policy is that housing is a basic human right that should not be reduced to a commodity only available at the whim of the market. We aim for housing that is affordable, secure, good quality and appropriately located, for all.

The Socialist Alliance advocates a massive expansion of public housing. It should not be a residual service grudgingly provided only to those who can prove they are extremely poor. It should be available for all workers who want it.

In moving to properly regulate the private sector, governments should address Australia's spiralling rental price increases by implementing rent control laws similar to those in Los Angeles and New York, which limit the amount by which rent can be increased and all rent is capped at a maximum of 20% of income.

The Socialist Alliance calls for the elimination of capital gains tax exemptions and negative gearing, which work to inflate the market and keep lower-income people out of home ownership.

The general housing affordability crisis in Australia is a product of the “free-market” madness of the capitalist system, in which human need is subordinated to big-business greed.

Green Left Weekly has campaigned strongly in support of the struggles of public housing tenants such as those at Sydney's Millers Point, who are facing eviction and the forced sale of their homes. And we have consistently advocated for alternative housing policies such as those promoted by Socialist Alliance.

If you agree with the need for housing as a human right, not a market commodity for the rich, then assist us to get the message out more broadly by contributing to the Green Left Weekly 2017 Fighting Fund .

Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or donate on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

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