Senate inquiry being fed lies and propaganda

Posted on 6/08/2014  
Senate inquiry being fed lies and propaganda

I feel some sympathy for the people conducting the Senate inquiry into affordable housing. Based on the media reports I’ve seen, they’re being served up a motley mixture of propaganda, misinformation and outright lies by organisations pushing their private agendas.

 How will they sort the wheat from the chaff, given that most of what they’re being fed is chaff?

 The representative bodies of elements of the real estate industry are simply presenting their wish lists on behalf of their members. Each one of them would have us believe that the solution to the problem is to give their members everything they’ve ever wanted.

 Apparently first-home buyers around the nation will rejoice if real estate agents can be helped to earn more commissions or developers can make more money faster.

 Firstly, what is the problem? Or, more pertinently, is there a problem?

 The premise of the inquiry is that young adults can’t afford to buy a dwelling. I’m quite certain that’s a false premise. It contradicts all the available evidence. (Our Cheapies with Prospects: City Edition report presents strong options to buy affordably in growth locations).

First-home buyers appear to be less active than before. And it has been assumed – incorrectly, I’m quite sure – that this is solely because they can’t afford to buy. No one has considered that there might be another explanation. Or several other explanations.

 Last Friday I was guest speaker at a business luncheon. I addressed a number of topics under the heading – “Residential Property – the market no one really understands” – and there followed a long discussion of the issues.

The hottest topic was the motivation of young Australians with regards to home ownership. Many of those present – who have adult children and/or work with young adults – observed that most twenty-something Australians have little or no interest in buying real estate.

Affordability is not the issue. They simply have other priorities. I was interested to hear those comments, but not surprised because this has been revealed in several surveys in the past 12 months. Young adults, generally speaking, don’t want to repeat the life path of their parents, which included being married with kids and a mortgage before 30.

They want lifestyle and travel. They’re more inclined to invest in themselves than in real estate. One view expressed at the luncheon was that many would rather start a business than buy property.

There’s another factor. I think there’s more first-home buyer activity that the figures show, because most state and territories have changed their grants system. Grants are available now for new homes only. But the research shows that most first-timers buy established properties, because they’re considerably cheaper and often better-located.

There are first-home buyers out there slipping under the radar because they’re not claiming grants.

All of that is an inconvenient truth to builders, developers and real estate agents. They want politicians to believe there’s a crisis and they have to act to fix the perceived problem.

And the solution they’re presenting to the Senate inquiry is: give us what we want and the problem with go away.

The solution presented by Master Builders Australia is to release more land, make approvals easier and faster, and reduce or eliminate infrastructure charges to developers – with penalties for governments that don’t toe the MBA line.

That’s not a solution. That’s the lifetime wish list of builders and developers across the nation.

The attitude of the Real Estate Institute of Australia is particularly interesting, because their statements contradict their own research. The REIA co-publishes a quarterly affordability index that shows that affordability is the best it’s been in over a decade. But it’s telling the Senate inquiry that there’s a big affordability problem and the Government must act to fix it.

Either the REIA index is nonsense or their submission to the inquiry is. I’d love to know which they think it is.

The REIA claims there’s a national housing shortfall of 100,000 dwellings. Developer bodies make similar claims. But they don’t justify the claim. They demand that we accept it as fact, without presenting any evidence. I think it’s real estate’s greatest myth (and have presented my evidence many times in this column).

So, the REIA’s solution to the problem their own index says doesn’t exist is to make lots of changes to ensure more property deals happen: assistance to first-home buyers, access to superannuation to make buying property easier, retention of negative gearing for investors, abolition of stamp duties and release of more land.

It’s pure coincidence that all these measures are likely to line the pockets of REIA members around Australia.

At some point in time, developers, agents and other servants of the property industry will have to accept that this generation of young adults will never adopt the priorities of their parents. They have better things to do with their lives.

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