Australia’s housing affordability crisis

This private submission by Michael Dromgool to Australia’s Housing Affordability Inquiry identifies supply restrictions as the key cause of the current housing affordability crisis:

Traditionally the flexible forces of demand and supply in the property market self-managed the development of land for housing. Development occurred in locations where and when demand was sufficient to warrant it, with a process that was responsive to demand.

…Now fast-forward to the present day. The government has shut off the supply of land on the city fringe to limit the city to its present size, abolishing a free market system in favour of a centrally-directed scheme that severely distorts the property market…..Smart growth is a deliberate policy to make land more expensive, to increase the city’s population density and force more people into apartments, not the detached houses that most people actually prefer to live in….

Economists and politicians in Australia confidently attribute the decline in housing affordability to strong demand driven by economic and population growth, conveniently neglecting the supply side of the equation…..

Many cities in the United States, such as Atlanta, still use responsive planning. In 1981 more people lived in Melbourne than Atlanta and in both cities the median house cost less than three years of median income in that city to purchase. Over 30 years demand from economic and population growth in Atlanta was stronger than Melbourne, it grew much faster and Atlanta’s population was nearly 50% greater than Melbourne’s by 2011 and the median house price there was $129,400, 2.3 times the median income of $55,800. Yet in Melbourne the median house price reached $565,000, nine times the median income of $63,100. The government tries to convince us that houses are expensive due to high demand, yet they are actually cheaper in a city where demand is substantially stronger. The state government of Georgia drew no arbitrary boundary around the city of Atlanta and consequently it expanded outwards onto greenfield land. In Australian cities, homes are expensive because the land is expensive.