|Issue No. 227
|02 July 2004
A Place To Call Home
Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
A Place To Call Home
The prohibitive costs associated with entering the housing market is emerging as a source of inter-generational tension, while Baby Boomers sit on millions in property the following generation can only look and wonder how they'll ever enter the market.
It affects the way we live (a rental market is more transient and tenuous); the way we manage our finances (without a mortgage there is less incentive to save) and even the way we think (without a piece of property from where will derive our sense of security?).
So it was timely that industry, welfare groups, unions and the government met in Canberra this week to discuss Housing Affordability, and while the agendas varied the take out was common - spiralling property prices are good if you are in the market, but present some long-term challenges to policy makers.
Having watched these debates played out, I can't help wondering whether the very building blocks of our housing market are the problem.
In short, we have a property market that both drives and is driven by bank profitability - banks lend to generate income and the more they lend the more money is in the property market pushing prices ever up.
And this orgy of lending fuels not just the first home, but one, two three investment properties underwritten by the family home, none of which will ever be paid off, but which continues the upward spiral in prices.
As CFMEU national secretary John Sutton pointed out this week, the federal government's current housing policy is little more than a series of tax incentives and handouts that poor money into the private rental market.
Sutton dubs it 'public policy insanity' because the end result is an over-heated market, that newcomers can't enter, that delivers more and more profit to those already in the market. So it is both inequitable and unsustainable.
The CFMEU proposal for industry superannuation funds to invest workers savings, in partnership with state and federal government to increase our public hosing stuck warrants consideration for several reasons.
First and obviously, it would alleviate the crisis in access to housing - and the flow on social costs of homelessness that is felt across the entire community.
Secondly, it would not only stimulate the job-generating construction industry, it would give the public a stake in the ever rising property market - bringing a return back to the entire community rather than just to those already at the table.
Thirdly, by making public housing more widely available it could take the heat out of the investment property market - the beast responsible for driving house prices the an unsustainable direction.
And finally, the knowledge that there are viable alternatives to land ownership might just allow us to step back from the crazy working ethos that is killing our families and communities.
How many of us work longer and harder in the increasingly vain hope that the massive mortgage could one day be paid off or the massive entry hurdles can be attained?
Maybe, just maybe, with a vibrant public housing sector, we may not feel as insecure, as needing of a Torrens Title to feel that we some ties to this earth.
Perhaps it would force us to look at models of co-existence where security is not defined by the height of our fence or the quality of our alarm systems, but by our connections to our neighbours
Socialism? More a sophisticated approach to the capitalist market: the CFMEU superannuation plan is no doubt radical, but the sort of idea that is worth discussing if we are to build an alternative to our current selfish, dog eat dog, Lotto society.
After all, it wasn't so long ago that ideas like driving trade unions out of the workplace and sending jobs to the market where there was the least regulation appeared to be the work of some mad, radical fringe.
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