Government urged to make housing ‘priority policy issue’

Abolishing stamp duty, releasing more land and letting buyers access their superannuation are some of the proposed solutions to Australia’s “acute” housing affordability problem.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia told the federal Inquiry into Affordable Housing that home ownership in Australia has been declining after four decades of stable levels.

It forecast that Australia would have a national housing shortage of 375,000 dwellings by 2015 – up from 100,000 in 2006 – which in turn would put pressure on prices.

The institute’s submission said “housing affordability is an acute issue for first home buyers” and the supply of affordable housing needs to be addressed as a “priority policy issue”.

One recommendation was for the states and territories to abolish stamp duty, which was blamed for distorting the market and reducing property investment.

Another recommendation was for more government land to be released for housing and for the development process to be streamlined in order to reduce costs for developers.

The submission also said that prospective buyers should be able to use their superannuation to help fund their deposit.

“Using retirement savings towards buying a home has already proven to be successful in Canada, New Zealand and Singapore,” according to the submission.

Chief executive Amanda Lynch said all levels of government had to work together to bring a better balance to the supply and demand of housing.

“Studies have found that the stability associated with home ownership ultimately contributes to positive social outcomes, such as improved education levels for children, better mental and physical health, and greater social connectedness and participation in local community and voluntary organisations,” she said.

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