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Would Australian Households Be Better Off if We Ditch Negative Gearing?


Economic modelling undertaken by University of Melbourne economists, and presented to the Reserve Bank last month, shows that three-quarters of Australian households would be better off if negative gearing is abolished.

The study was posted on the Reserve Bank website for public release on Friday.

The paper explores the implications of negative gearing – including a 30 per cent collapse in the supply of rental properties – and found that abolishing negative gearing would lead to an overall welfare gain of 1.5 per cent of GDP.

Negative gearing is a policy that largely benefits landlords, and the 17 per cent of the Australia population that have property investments – out of which 70 per cent are negatively geared – would undoubtedly be worse off with its removal.

The study estimated that thirteen per cent of the population would be directly influenced by the removal of negative gearing, and likely to quit their holdings.

“The housing prices fall because removing negative gearing takes a significant amount of housing investment out of the property market,” the report said.

“Both the proportion of landlords and the amount of resources allocated to housing investment, given by the average expenditure, have fallen significantly after the policy reform.

Importantly, removing negative gearing increases the average homeownership rate of the economy from 66.7 per cent to 72.2 per cent.

The improvement in homeownership was observed most predominantly among poor households, where the fall in house price and the rise in rent reduce the price-to-rent ratio in the economy by 4.2 per cent.

“This has direct implications on housing affordability as the fall in house price lowers both the downpayment requirement for mortgages and the size of mortgages required to purchase a house, making it easier for households to own a home.”

If negative gearing was to be scrapped, the average mortgage size held by homeowners would likely decrease 21 per cent.

“Eliminating negative gearing takes young landlords who were rich enough to meet a downpayment requirement for investment properties away from the market.

“This reconciles a recent trend in the property market that there has been a rise in investment housing debt holdings by young and rich 35 households who would have benefitted the most from negative gearing concessions.

“The aggregate welfare for the economy improves upon the repeal of negative gearing ... around 80 per cent of households are better off after the policy reform.”

Australia’s negative gearing regime stands alone against comparable OECD countries. Only New Zealand and Japan allow the unrestricted use of negative gearing losses to offset income from other sources.

The report’s authors, Yunho Cho, Shuyun May Li, and Lawrence Uren said that along with their findings on negative gearing it would also be worth considering some partial restrictions, such as allowing tax deductions for mortgage interest payments only.

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