UNSW report finds more social housing needed to boost Australia's economy

A survey of leading economists and housing experts warns that Australia's economic stability is being undermined by low interest loans and mortgage debt. Picture: Shutterstock
A survey of leading economists and housing experts warns that Australia's economic stability is being undermined by low interest loans and mortgage debt. Picture: Shutterstock

A large-scale social housing program is one of the best ways to boost Australia's economic recovery following the COVID-19 downturn, a new survey of economists and housing experts reveals.

The report, produced by the UNSW City Futures Centre, also found experts believed an over-reliance on low-interest loans for housing was undermining productivity and economic growth.

The report's authors, led by Honorary Professor Duncan Maclennan, said they analysed the attitudes of 47 of the country's leading economists and 40 experts from government, industry and academia.

The survey found 84 per cent of the respondents believed Australian governments have paid too little attention to how housing outcomes affected economic productivity and growth.

About 80 per cent agreed rising mortgage debt posed a risk to Australia's economic stability.

Professor Bill Randolph, who was part of the research team, said the study highlighted worries about over-reliance on ultra-low interest rates for housing, employment and productivity.

"The vast bulk of housing experts and economists surveyed are concerned that ongoing Treasury dependence on 'cheap money' policy will further ratchet up house prices and widen the gap between rich and poor," Professor Randolph said.

"From a purely economic perspective, the informed expert view is that this will undermine productivity and economic growth.

"Among the best ways to broaden Australia's economic recovery strategy would be a large-scale national social housing program. Minimal construction for most of the past 25 years means that national social housing supply has effectively halved since the 1990s."

Almost 70 per cent of the respondents believed Commonwealth stimulus should be directed to social housing rather than investment in the private housing market.

Public housing waiting lists have grown by 4 per cent in the past year, while high need applications had surged by 11 per cent.

Spokeswoman for Everybody's Home, a national advocacy body for homelessness prevention, Kate Colvin said greater investment in social housing was the correct choice both morally and economically.

"A $7 billion investment in social and affordable housing would unlock more than $18 billion in economic expansion, create more than 18,000 jobs a year over four years and make a serious dent in homelessness," Ms Colvin said.

"Longer term this would also boost productivity, by allowing people better access to jobs. Social housing can lift people out of poverty and put them on a path to prosperity."

This story Social housing needed to boost Australian economy: report first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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