Rivals building the great Australian dream

A new national approach to housing could see the federal government's focus extend beyond first home buyers to renters, older Australians, and women and children needing emergency shelter.

Rising property prices have put the great Australian dream of home ownership further out of reach for more households, and any offer of help is a winner in election campaigns - and not just for buyers.

Housing Industry Association head Graham Wolfe said more than one million people are in residential building work across Australia every day, so making housing supply a national priority makes sense.

"It will support individuals, businesses and the Australian economy in the years ahead," he said.

Under the "help to buy" scheme announced by Labor at the weekend, individual applicants can earn up to $90,000 and couples up to $120,000, with property price caps ranging from $950,000 in Sydney to $400,000 in regional WA, SA and Tasmania.

Some 10,000 low and middle-income homebuyers per year could enter the market, with the government owning up to 40 per cent of the house or unit.

Renters would get a say in a national housing and homelessness plan developed by a new National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.

The successful deposit guarantee scheme established by the coalition government, and expanded in the last budget to 50,000 applicants per year, would continue if Labor was elected.

The National Housing Finance Investment Corporation has approved $2.9 billion in loans and saved 57,000-plus homebuyers more than $420 million in interest payments so far.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia, said supply issues that are a state and territory government responsibility need federal government leadership.

Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said Labor's shared equity scheme is "unlikely to distort housing markets or prices" because it is capped at 10,000 places a year.

Home buyers would also avoid having to pay costly lenders' mortgage insurance.

But the industry wants to see the fine print on Labor's plan to double foreign investment screening fees and financial penalties from July this year to pay for it.

KPMG senior economist Sarah Hunter told AAP versions of the targeted policy are in place in some states and overseas, and have worked.

But with 481,000 households taking out an owner-occupied mortgage in 2021, the scheme wasn't likely to impact on prices or affordability, she said.

If elected, increased emergency funding of $100 million would also be available.

"What we are doing is trying to create a circumstance whereby everyone can have the possibility of a secure roof over their head," Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Monday.

Peak bodies representing poorer households and community housing welcomed the proposals.

Emma Greenhalgh, CEO at National Shelter, said it would help people looking to re-enter home ownership after being forced out.

"This is critical, particularly for older women, facing housing challenges following a family separation," she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Coalition is helping Australians buy their own home, without the government making money out of taking a stake.

There is also First Home SuperSaver for saving a deposit at lower tax rates through superannuation.

HomeBuilder supported builders and renovators during the pandemic, although the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute says in new research it pumped up prices and created construction bottlenecks.

Meanwhile, investment in student housing is returning as international borders re-open.

"Students are back, and so too is interest in the places in which they live," Ray White Group chief economist Nerida Conisbee said.

Singapore's sovereign wealth fund recently spent $568 million buying into an Australian student housing portfolio.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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