Scott Morrison has just made a commitment to something that could make or break the Coalition’s campaign for the next election.
The Treasurer has acknowledged the need for housing to become more affordable – and soon – but his solution steers clear of the controversial changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax that Labor are proposing.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Morrison said: “But while the majority of Australians live in a home that is either owned or being purchased by their household, for each new generation this aspiration is proving more and more difficult to realise.
“That is why housing affordability will be an important policy focus of the Turnbull Government in this parliamentary term. And it is important we get it right.”
If you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, it’s with good reason.
Soon after Mr Morrison became Treasurer back in September last year, he said the government would prioritise making home ownership affordable for more Australians.
During the election campaign he said steps were already being taken with state treasurers to cut the cost of housing developments by reducing the amount of red tape involved.
But if anything has been done, it hasn’t made a noticeable difference to the many renters who are starting to give up hope of ever owning their own place as prices continue to soar further out of reach. This is why many may find it hard to see sincerity in Mr Morrison’s most recent comments.
But perhaps you should give the Treasurer the benefit of the doubt for now. He’s wrapped both points together in one speech this time – mentioning both the policy priority and co-operation with states – so he could actually mean business.
Mr Morrison’s comments have moved from being a new Treasurer’s wishlist and a bit of election spiel to a commitment against which voters will judge him when the next election comes around.
He’s promised policies in the next three years which place home ownership within the grasp of more people. If he fails, it’s not going to slip by unnoticed.
Nobody is expecting something as complex as house pricing to be fixed overnight, but after the Treasurer has specifically spoken about the issue of affordability and highlighted the ever-growing home ownership gap, the general public will be watching expectantly.
Mr Morrison also hinted at reducing the cost burden on developers, with state-level negotiations planned for late in the year.
“The Government will therefore also be discussing with the states the potential to remove residential land use planning regulations that unnecessarily impede housing supply and are not in the broader public interest,” he said.
“This will be the strong focus of my discussions at the next Council on Federal Financial Relations that I will convene in early December.”
But this, also, is nothing new. Asked back in May about possible cost reductions from the states, he told the National Press Club: “You need to go into a new compact with states and territories and that’s exactly what I began some months ago — late last year in fact — in sitting down with (state) treasurers as part of the Council on Federal Financial Relations.”
So he’s been discussing this for a year already but there really hasn’t been any change from a buyer’s perspective.
Well, Mr Morrison, you have three more years to make a difference. The clock is ticking and the people are waiting.