The politics of property prices are shifting rapidly beneath the Turnbull Government. After declaring that housing affordability would be the centrepiece of next month’s federal budget, the government has been backtracking.
The shift in rhetoric isn’t surprising. Despite all the talk of options on the table, the government is yet to show that it’s serious about addressing housing affordability. Few of the proposals it has flagged in recent weeks would make much difference, and some would make the problem worse.
To capitalise on the government’s indecision, the opposition announced its own housing strategy last week. While most of Labor’s ideas are sensible, not many will make housing much more affordable, with the exception of previously announced changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount.
State and federal governments have raised expectations among voters anxious to see action on housing. Governments now need something concrete to point to. There are options that would make a big difference, but none is politically easy. If governments want to be seen to be serious about housing affordability, they’re going to have to make tough choices and avoid the temptation to do the easy (and stupid) things.
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