Les Miserables accentuate the negative in our housing market

Posted on 19/03/2011  
A PESSIMIST sees the difficulty in every opportunity, Winston Churchill said, while an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Australia's building and development industry radiates pessimism at every turn. If we are to believe the organisations that represent them, there are no opportunities in this nation, only difficulties.

Affordability is so bad it's not even worth trying. Developers are desperate to build but there isn't any land anywhere, not even in Melbourne, where they have just extended the urban boundary, or in Adelaide, where there have been vast land releases, or in Brisbane, where the Ipswich region has the same land area as Brisbane City but one-sixth the population.

They keep telling us about the "chronic housing shortage crisis", with more than 100,000 households seeking new homes but unable to get them. But Melbourne developers are going to China to find buyers for their house and land packages.

Organisations such as the Housing Industry Association, the Master Builders Association and the Urban Taskforce pump out media comments every day, but have failed the generate more than a few optimistic words any time in the past two years.

Even positive data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics attracts negative analysis. It's as if admitting something good is happening in their world would offend some secret code of behaviour. They are Les Miserables of the business world. As retiring ANZ executive Bob Edgar said in 2009: "Can you tell me the period in Australia's commercial history when property developers were happy? They've always got a problem."

That's why it was refreshing to speak to a Queensland developer who is pushing ahead with a luxury apartment development on the battered and bruised Sunshine Coast. Shane Leadbetter says people should stop whingeing and get on with it.

From Terry Ryder's Hotspotting column published in the new Property Section of The Weekend Australian.

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