Politicians to battle housing affordability - an oxymoron? Robert Simeon

Politicians to battle housing affordability - an oxymoron? Robert Simeon
Politicians to battle housing affordability - an oxymoron? Robert Simeon

Come in spinner or should that be spinners?

In a property week that can only be described as unprecedented we have had the prime minister, treasurer and newly elected NSW premier all declare that they are going to tackle housing affordability.

Previously housing affordability was a bit like going to your doctor for the annual check-up where after your consultation you advise the doctor that you don’t need to see the results. For years and years, our elected politicians have refused point blank to accept any responsibility for being the actual cause of this problem.

The new premier is already stumbling and stuttering where she stated that the heart of the problem is supply so NSW must build more properties. We all know that, this is only a part of the problem, so then the remedies moved to negative gearing (a federal problem) which explains why the prime minister has been silent following his announcement that he too, will personally pursue the housing affordability issues in Australia.

Next, the premier stated that she needed to make sure that the state’s finances are in order before she considers changing stamp duty. I would refer the premier to her media release on December 15, 2016. “NSW has recorded the lowest unemployment rate of the nation for 18 consecutive months and has widened its lead over the next strongest state, the latest ABS data shows. Our unemployment rate is by far the lowest in the nation and demonstrates our economic strength.”

Of course, the premier may always wish to investigate just why in Sydney we presently have public transport considered to be amongst the worst in the world. Back in November 2012 a global survey of 27 of the most important cities in the world ranked Sydney as fourth – worst for public transport. To make matters worse the survey also identified that Sydneysiders pay more for public transport than anywhere else.

Despite that embarrassing finding where our public transport would be even worse since that survey NSW continues to attract more than 50 per cent of the residential investment spend in Australia. On top of that it was revealed this week that the Sydney median house price had climbed a further ten percent in 2016 to now sit at $1,123,991 – another new record.

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Politicians to battle housing affordability - an oxymoron? Robert Simeon

Most people already know the answer to Australia’s housing affordability woes – look no further than the Henry Tax Review that was commissioned back in 2008 then published in 2010 only to be ignored by elected politicians because it was too hard and significantly threatened their parliamentary pensions. The report consisted of nine broad themes with point 8 stating – “Toward more affordable housing: substantially increase rent assistance, gradually move to a uniform land tax and remove transfer taxes (stamp duty), and gradually move to a neutral treatment of rental and owner – occupied housing.”

The Henry Tax Review has now come back with a vengeance and deservedly biting our politicians where it hurts. Although the real reason why NSW refuses to make changes to Stamp Duty is succinctly explained in the following graph.

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Politicians to battle housing affordability - an oxymoron? Robert Simeon

In Australia, currently the Top 10 taxes deliver 90 per cent of Australia’s taxation revenues. Three of the state taxes are in the Top 10 taxes by revenue collected, although these three state taxes are at the bottom of the Top 10 and represent less than 11 per cent of all tax revenues.

Many simply say increase the taxes for foreign buyers, although there are major issues on that horizon when this week two major Chinese private providers of home price data stopped publishing figures so what’s happening to the home-grown Chinese property markets? The Chinese Index Academy stopped distributing monthly housing price data for 100 cities which was usually made available at the commencement of each month. The Academy told Reuters last Friday, it had suspended distribution indefinitely and then politely declined to provide a reason.

Coincidentally on New Year’s Eve the Chinese government issued a statement that effectively makes it much harder for Chinese investors to now get their money out of China. In an email I received on January 5 here are the key points.

  • The individual annual foreign exchange purchase quota of $50,000 is unchanged.
  • Banks are “encouraged” to increase scrutiny of currency transfers.
  • Banks must report any overseas transfers by individuals of US$10,000 or more.
  • Starting in July 2017, banks and other financial institutions in China will have to report all domestic and overseas cash transactions of more than 50,000 yuan ($7,201), compared with the current amount of 200,000 yuan.
  • Beijing is signalling to banks, companies and individuals that it disapproves of foreign spending and investment, except for a few purposes that are explicitly defined by the government (e.g. buying foreign-made machinery to increase the efficiency of a Chinese factory).
  • Overseas property investment has been called out by at least one major Chinese bank as insufficient reason for transferring money abroad.

With great interest, we shall watch very carefully how the Chinese buyers perform in 2017 especially as very little (actually nothing) has been written on these forced changes by the Chinese government.

Housing affordability will be major election issues at forthcoming state and federal elections and that could not happen to a nicer group of politicians who have been complicit by neglecting these issues for decades.

Oh and on Australia Day, 2014 Mosman had 68 houses on the market, 2015 it fell to 58, then in 2016 it fell to 45 and this week it’s 25.

ROBERT SIMEON is a director of Richardson Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. 

He has also been writing real estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000.

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon

Robert Simeon is a director of Richardson Wrench Mosman and Neutral Bay and has been selling residential real estate in Sydney since 1985. He has also been writing real estate blog Virtual Realty News since 2000.

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