There are many reasons why housing is so expensive in Australia, but there is one major reason that over-rides all the others: politicians keep adding to the cost.
Housing is ridiculously expensive in this country and keeps becoming more so, because all three levels of government treat the housing industry as a cash cow.
They love to milk the housing industry for revenue – and are adept at finding new and innovative ways to create new taxes, fees and charges – or increase the existing ones.
Politicians think they can do this with little electoral risk because, as they see it, they are slugging property developers, builders and investors with the tax hikes – and nobody cares about them, right?
But the reality is that, ultimately, it’s home buyers who pay – including first-home buyers.
If a state government implements a new policy that adds $50,000 to the cost of building a new house on a block of land, the end price rises accordingly – or the builder goes broke.
Whether it’s changing the building code, or adding to safety features, or improving energy efficiency, or making homes more accessible to more people, all this tinkering collectively adds massively to the costs of new dwellings.
Recent design changes mandated in Queensland and NSW have added around $40,000 to the cut of building the average new house in those states.
It’s the consumer who pays that considerable increase – and it’s the politicians they elect who are to blame.
The irony is that politicians love to stand up in front of a crowd or a press conference and declare how much they care of the housing affordability problem – but everything they do makes it worse.
Here’s just one example of how a government organisation, given the responsibility of contributing to the solution to the national housing shortage crisis, decided instead to use the opportunity to milk more tax revenue from the housing industry and to hell with the consequences.
This is Brisbane City Council, one of the largest local authorities in Australia, controlling a huge chunk of the Greater Brisbane metropolitan area.
The Council, which has a notable track record of milking the property industry for extra revenue, has just hit owners and builders of certain types of accommodation with rate increases of up to 200%.
The Brisbane council recently did a similar thing with property owners who use short-term letting options like Airbnb, doubling their rates.
The mayor claimed they were doing to relieve the rental shortage crisis, even though an independent study by the University of Queensland has found that short-term letting activity is not the cause of the rental shortages.
This was just another cash grab by an unethical council, but they are one among many at all levels of government who keep adding to the costs of creating dwellings in Australia, thereby pushing up prices and rents.
Sadly, in Australia, when we’re looking for scapegoats, we always blame the wrong people.
Property investors and developers are popular targets, frequently demonised by media and politicians.
But usually it’s the politicians who are creating, and exacerbating, the worst of our problems.