ANOTHER day, another bad news story for those trying to get on the property ladder.
This week a survey found 58 per cent of Australians believe the next generation will never own their own homes.
But for those sick of the grim outlook, they need to understand that change is also in their hands.
In fact, it is actually in the best interests of all generations that the housing market returns to a more reasonable level of growth.
“I think there is a general recognition that the system is not working, and it’s not working for a generation of young folks now,” Professor Bill Randolph, director of the UNSW City Futures Research Centre, told news.com.au.
“I suspect that if this was not an election year and there was more time to discuss this, there could be more consensus for change.
“The last thing we want is for the market to collapse like a house of cards, but it could happen, especially if interest rates went up.
“I’m not predicting a crash but it is an unstable environment.”
Prof Randolph said while half the population wanted house prices to continue rising, the other half wanted them to come down. But he suspected that those among Generation Rent were likely to win out eventually.
“If you have a whole generation who can’t get into the property market, ask yourself who is going to buy homes from the Baby Boomers when they want to downsize?” he said.
“Where will the people be who have enough assets to buy them out?
“Some will get money from their parents but a lot won’t have enough. Over time there will almost inevitably be a correction in the housing market.”
But Prof Randolph does not think it will be a good idea to wait 10, 20 years for a crash, because it would be better to figure a way out of the situation.
Affordable housing in Sydney
“There is a chance now because of lower interest rates to do something without destroying the whole system,” he said. “I think we could work it out if there was a will to do it.”
Which takes us back to the most important message — that young people need to step up.
“If (Generation Rent) don’t want to be left high and dry, their voice needs to be heard,” Prof Randolph said.
“(The problem) is going to land in their laps so they should get noisy about it now.”
Affordable housing in particular was one area that people should be demanding action on.
While some people think of affordable housing as social, or public housing, it could actually cater to a broader cross-section of people.
“It depends on how you market this stuff,” Prof Randolph said.
“In the UK providers actually target the Generation Rent market,” he said.
In fact there were a number of program overseas aimed at creating affordable housing that Australia has yet to embrace.
This includes “partial ownership” tenures, where people could potentially own 50 per cent of a property, and the other half is owned by a not-for-profit organisation or developer. Over time they could gradually pay off the rest.
“The point is you are subsidising housing through things like negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions,” Prof Randolph said. “If you take that subsidy and direct it into affordable homes, you could create a whole new sector of affordable housing.
“But it requires a subsidy from government and they are reluctant to give direct subsidies to produce affordable housing.”
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GOVERNMENTS NEED TO AGREE
For example, state governments could require that a portion of housing built on public land is set aside for affordable housing.
“But that would mean the government would get less money for that land,” Prof Randolph said.
He said experts needed to get together and work out a package that would be supported by both sides of politics.
“The sensible approach would be to get a bipartisan political line worked out to unwind the housing market over the next 10, 15 years for a more balanced approach,” he said.
“There are all sorts of alternatives but we are stuck in our bunkers. We need to call a truce and talk sensibly. Sooner or later reason will prevail.”
YOU NEED TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
The one thing this all relies on though, is political will, and there will never be action unless people demand it.
“If Generation Rent want to make noise about it, and they should, they really ought to,” Prof Randolph said.
He said using social media to start a campaign on affordable housing could be one way to push for change, but there was also another more traditional method.
“They do have a voice and they do vote,” Prof Randolph said. “If they’re concerned about this, that’s one way of making themselves known.”
The chair of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition Katie Acheson has warned that there was a huge pool of young voters waiting to be tapped in the upcoming election, which polls show could be very close.
“We haven’t heard any of the parties come out and say ‘We want to get that youth vote, we want to start talking about what young people care about,” she said.