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Briefing paper

Housing affordability in Australia and the UK: common problems and common solutions

Prepared for the Henry Halloran Trust Lecture, University of Sydney, July 2016

4 Aug 2016
  1. Housing should be seen in a long -run context, since policy and outcomes cannot be changed quickly. But for most households, housing conditions have improved enormously over the last 50 -100 years. Housing problems are about tails in the distribution. Nevertheless, m any improvements have not come about through explicit housing policies. Housing policy is a poor relation to wider fiscal and monetary policy and this contributes to high housing market volatility.
  2. Declining home -ownership – temporary or permanent: Too much credit or too little? Our research indicates that, in addition to demographics, the propensity to become a home owner depends on affordability, the income distribution, credit availability and competition from investors. On this basis, some (but not all) of the factors causing declining home ownership may be temporary. But, the housing problems of low -income households are not cyclical, but structural.
  3. General increases in housing supply have only a limited effect on affordability unless they are large and sustained and are a ccompanied by changes in fiscal policy. These are not alternatives.
  4. General market increases in housing supply have only a limited trickle -down effect to affordable housing for low income groups. Therefore, targeted approaches are required.
  5. Funding for low-income housing will not primarily come from government and, therefore, there is a need for innovative funding methods. 
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