What a Difference a Month Makes, but Victoria Can Still do More to get Housing and Planning Right – The Conversation

Extract from an article by Katrina Raynor, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Transforming Housing Project, University of Melbourne and Carolyn Whitzman, Professor of Urban Planning, University of Melbourne.

The need for more affordable housing close to public transport and services is acute in Melbourne. Inner Melbourne has experienced a 74% increase in rough sleeping in the past two years. This is perhaps the most visible outcome of the lack of affordable housing options. Only 1% of advertised rental properties in the metropolitan area are affordable for households reliant on government assistance.

Buying or renting in the well-serviced inner and middle suburbs is increasingly out of reach for households on low and moderate incomes. A month ago, one of us wrote an article in The Conversation bemoaning the lack of government leadership on this issue. In the 15 months since its election, the Victorian government had not delivered promised revisions to the Plan Melbourne metropolitan strategy or an affordable housing strategy.

What a difference a month makes. It is almost as if some government leaders read the article. Every week (or to be more precise, weekend) since then has delivered a major policy announcement…

Moderate-income households

We define moderate income as 80-120% of area median income – about A$68,500-$102,500 a year. In this group, first home buyers appear to be the biggest winners in Plan Melbourne and Homes For Victorians.

The Victorian government will waive stamp duty for first home buyers on homes worth up to $600,000 and taper stamp duty concessions on homes above that price. This is set to cost the government $851 million over four years and save the average buyer $8,000.

However, if previous first home buyer incentives have taught us anything, this is likely to inflate the cost of cheaper dwellings without delivering affordability benefits.

The government is also offering a shared equity program. This allows first home buyers to co-purchase their home with the government. The initiative is intended to support households that qualify for a bank loan but need help saving a deposit. Western Australia has a similar program, which has helped more than 1,500 households buy homes to date.

Low-income households

This group earns 50%-80% of area median income, in the range of $42,500-$68,500 a year.

As exciting as the above options are for some first home buyers, they are out of reach for low-income households that earn between $800 and $1,300 per week. These households are unlikely to qualify for social housing but struggle to afford market rent and purchase prices.

This group, which includes many service and trades workers and their families, need a steady stream of new, appropriately sized and affordable market rental options. However, neither the Housing for Victorians nor Plan Melbourne talks specifically about a new scheme to replace the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which the current federal government abandoned in 2013.

It is absolutely true, as the affordable housing strategy states, that federal policies like capital gains tax exemptions and negative gearing favour investors over first-time and other resident homebuyers. However, state government policies can have an impact on scaling up a rental housing market…

SOURCE: Raynor, Katrina and Whitzman, Carolyn. “What a Difference a Month Makes, but Victoria Can Still do More to get Housing and Planning Right.” The Conversation

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