While the prolonged five-year property boom we’ve recently experienced has started to ease slightly of late, public anxiety around record level house prices in our big cities is on the rise.
When asked to select the three most important issues facing their local community, Australians have traditionally voiced concerns around healthcare, cost of living, crime and unemployment. Lately however, housing affordability seems to be the number one source of rising stress levels among our population.
According to the latest Ipsos Issues Monitor, which asks respondents to select the three standout problems people feel are impacting the community, breaking into the housing markets in our big cities is creeping up the charts.
In NSW, housing affordability has topped the list of concerns for three quarters now; with close to half of respondents suggesting this is one of the most critical hurdles our nation has to overcome, compared to less than a third in 2014.
In Victoria, housing is second only to crime on the locals’ list of concerns, with over a third of those surveyed from the garden state rating housing as one of the top challenges they face.
Problems for the people and the pollies
While housing affordability has been on the political agenda for the past couple of years, it’s always seemed as though there’s been more talk than real action to curb the growing crisis among Australia’s younger generations in particular.
This mounting disquiet among the masses however, is changing the somewhat dismissive response we’ve seen from past political leaders. Back in 2003, on the tail end of our last great housing boom, John Howard openly scoffed at citizens voicing concerns over rising house prices, suggesting “most people feel more secure and better off because the value of their homes has gone up.”
Now though, politicians are less flippant when it comes to addressing this long running ‘thorn in the side’ among the voting public.
“Among younger people there was a sense of not being able to move forward in life while many older people didn’t know what their children are going to do about housing and felt they may struggle to help their children,” reports Ipsos director Jessica Elgood.
Property values are fast becoming a political nightmare for state and federal leaders, who are increasingly being looked upon to implement pro-active, viable solutions to the conundrum.
Of course it’s a bit of a catch 22, with many in public office heavily invested in residential real estate, not to mention the increased associated tax revenue from property sales, and the fact that bricks and mortar has become the foundation for our relatively stable economy in these continued, uncertain global economic times.
What’s the solution?
That is the million-dollar question right now. But while various potential fixes have been tabled and regulatory intervention has made a bold attempt to dissuade investors pouring increasingly large sums of money into real estate assets, there still seems to be a lack of viable answers.
Currently the focus in Sydney is around planning and development, with projects such as ‘Smart Cities’ attempting to address the somewhat haphazard development that’s historically occurred around infrastructure and housing in the Harbour City, in a bid to deal with an ever-increasing population placing increased pressure on local resources.
“Reshaping Greater Sydney as a metropolis of three cities – Eastern, Central and Western – will rebalance it, fostering jobs, improving housing affordability, easing congestion and enhancing our enviable natural environment across the entire region,” says Chief Commissioner Lucy Turnbull.
As with most government initiatives however, many are questioning the plan’s success before it’s even started, given the amount of cooks in the kitchen and how enthusiastic the new government will be to continue down this path.
Short term thinking from politicians, based more on their own career trajectory than seeking appropriate solutions, is one of the ongoing issues preventing a genuine response to housing affordability and always has been.
Only time will tell if the ‘powers that be’ can reinstate a sense of calm and certainty around the future of younger generations realising their own Great Australian Dream of home ownership. For now, it seems there’s still quite a ways to go.