By Danni Addison, Victorian CEO of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA)
We know housing affordability is a serious problem for many Victorians, and the solution isn’t as clear-cut as we would like. Nevertheless, we must keep addressing the critical affordability issues impacting our current and future communities, until we make significant headway to ease the crisis for all Victorians.
To make a tangible difference, we need a commitment from policy-makers, regulators and the housing industry to work together and tackle five main issues affecting housing affordability across the state of Victoria.
1. Balance up supply and demand
If housing is to become more affordable for more people, we need more homes. It is as simple as that. This is especially true in Victoria, with the fastest growing population in the nation. According to Victorian Government’s projected population figures, the property development industry needs to deliver around 55,000 new homes every single year until 2051.
If we can’t do that, supply simply will not keep up with the demand for housing and home prices will be pushed higher. If we can increase housing supply in well-serviced areas, then we can help families, older people, professionals, students, singles, or anyone else who falls in the low to middle income status to enter the housing market and live comfortably.
2. Invest in infrastructure that will open up new housing opportunities
Melbourne’s growth area suburbs are the release valve of our housing market. To keep housing affordable, the state and local government authorities have to support these suburbs by focusing on investing in and delivering the roads and services that will make these areas more accessible to employment, amenities, and services.
The property development industry does its bit in a big way by paying state and local government infrastructure contributions, land tax, biodiversity contributions, and other development related taxes and charges that make up a large part of the funding pool.
Government must step up and invest in enabling infrastructure such as roads and public transport which will unlock opportunities for Melbourne’s newest communities.
3. Bring our planning system up to speed
It’s time to get serious about real reform to Victoria’s planning system. The planning system is the most important tool we have for making sure the cost of planning and building new homes is not so expensive and time consuming that everyday people get locked out of the housing market.
Our system in Victoria is flawed, inefficient and more often than not, it actually makes it harder to deliver new housing, rather than helping, assisting and enabling new homes to be built. This is a very real piece of the housing affordability challenge, and it is complex and difficult to understand for most people, but so very important for keeping house prices affordable.
4. Stop fearing investors
People who invest in new housing are really important for bringing new housing to market. This is because a significant portion of developers depend on pre-sales bought by investors to get their projects started, especially for projects in the well-serviced inner suburbs of Melbourne. When there’s very little incentive for people to invest in new housing, over investing in established housing, then it makes it difficult for developers to get their projects going, and that results in less supply.
Fearing investors and taking away incentives like stamp duty concessions ignores the mums, dads and young people who are essential for making sure enough new housing is delivered to keep prices affordable for the rest of the market – the first home buyers, the pensioners and all those in between.
5. Start talking about the benefits of a denser city
Our cities are evolving as they grow and with this comes more choice and opportunity for housing, jobs and services. With a population growing as ours is, density is inevitable, and if it is done well, there are amazing benefits of a denser city, on of which is more affordable housing.
Now more than ever, state and local governments must make responsible, educated decisions that will enable appropriate density and increase housing options and choices for people to live in Melbourne’s well-serviced areas.
The urban development industry is driven and committed to housing affordability. We are in the business of making sure people have diverse housing options which are affordable at any stage of life or income. Now, more than ever, the industry is dedicated to working with state and local government authorities to deliver more housing in the areas we need it most. But we can’t do it alone. Together, it’s time to get real about making housing more affordable in Victoria.