NSW Housing Minister Rose Jackson’s recent comments that housing should be a “fundamental human right” have resonated with many Australians. After years of rising housing prices and falling home ownership rates, there is a growing sense that the Australian housing system is in crisis.
Jackson’s comments are also reminiscent of a report written by the Commonwealth Housing Commission in 1944, which warned that treating housing as a financial asset, rather than a right, would lead to serious social problems.
In the aftermath of World War II, Australia was facing an acute housing shortage. The Commonwealth Housing Commission was tasked with finding a solution, and it recommended a major building program to build 700,000 dwellings by the end of 1955. The Commission also said that the government should play a leading role in providing housing for low-income households.
Many of the Commission’s recommendations were ignored, but it did provide the background to the first Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement (CSHA), which was signed in 1945. Under the CSHA, the federal government agreed to provide funding for public housing, and state governments agreed to build and operate that public housing.
However, the CSHA was amended in 1956 by the Menzies Coalition government to promote private home ownership over public rental housing. This led to a decline in the number of public housing dwellings being built, and an increase in the number of low-income families being pushed into private rental markets.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that the Australian housing system is in crisis. Home ownership rates have been falling, while housing prices have been soaring. This has made it increasingly difficult for low-income families to afford housing.
Jackson’s comments suggest that there may be a genuine shift in the political wind towards treating housing as a right, rather than an asset. This would be a welcome change, and would help to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable and secure housing.
But is a return to the past the answer?
The Commonwealth Housing Commission’s report of 1944 was written in a different time. Australia was still recovering from the war, and there was a strong sense of social solidarity. The government was also willing to intervene in the economy to achieve its social goals.
Today, the situation is different. Australia is a much wealthier country, but there is also a greater emphasis on individual responsibility and free markets. This makes it more difficult for the government to intervene in the housing market.
Despite these challenges, there are a number of things that the government can do to address the housing crisis. These include:
Increasing the supply of affordable housing
Providing more support to low-income renters
Reforming the tax system to make it harder for investors to buy multiple properties
It is important to note that there is no single solution to the housing crisis. A combination of policies will be needed to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable and secure housing.
However, NSW Housing Minister Rose Jackson’s comments that housing should be a “fundamental human right” are a welcome sign that there may be a genuine shift in the political wind towards treating housing as a right, rather than an asset. This would be a significant change, and would help to ensure that all Australians have access to affordable and secure housing.
However, there are a number of challenges that will need to be overcome if Australia is to return to the days of the Commonwealth Housing Commission’s report of 1944. The government will need to be willing to intervene in the housing market, and there will need to be a broad consensus in the community about the importance of housing as a right.
Source: ABC News