Flash Forum on Housing Affordability

Moderator: Rob Harley, former property editor, AFR


  • Grattan Institute CEO John Daley
  • Urbis chief economist Nicki Hutley
  • Folkestone Head of Funds Management and the Treasurer’s appointment to the AHURI board Adrian Harrington 
  • SQM Research founder Louis Christopher will provide a quick state of the market report


Tuesday, 2 May, 2017
5.30 pm for 6 pm to 8 pm


Urbis offices
Tower 2, Level 23, Darling Park
201 Sussex St, Sydney

Price: $65

Get your tickets now

On Tuesday night in Sydney, 2 May we will host a star line up to help us craft a policy on housing affordability that we will deliver to federal Treasurer Scott Morrison in the hope of influencing him, if not for this budget then for the next, or with any other actions the government might contemplate. Or not.

Our facilitator is a doyen of property reporting, a man who has seen more booms and busts than most of us, but more importantly, he remembers the details: who did what and what happened then.

Rob Harley is known to pretty much the entire property industry as the  former long term property editor of AFR.G

Also coming is Grattan Institute CEO John Daley whose research and cut through is second to none. Others on the panel are the highly esteemed ChiefEconomist forr Urbis, Nicki Hutley, and the federal Treasurer’s appointment to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) board Adrian Harrington who is also Head of Funds Management for Folkestone. Harrington has a direct line to the Mr Morrison as a result and he’s promised to do his best to deliver our document.

SQM Research owner Louis Christopher will provide a quick run through of the state of the market and why he believes the prices are so high. Immigration of 90,000 to Sydney and 120,000 to Melbourne every year is part of the story, but not the only story. The $5million many immigrants carry into the country is quite possibly another key factor.

So what will make housing affordable again? What’s the role of interest rates, macro prudential regulations and negative gearing? What about the other ideas in a long list of ideas. See below for what Rob Harley and The Fifth Estate managed to cobble up in half an hour last week.

Why housing affordability is so important

Even if prices stop growing, median prices in Sydney are at $1.2 million and they’re unlikely to drop unless some owners get caught out with rising interest rates and are forced to sell. Young people and key workers on regular wages will find it almost impossible to buy into the market unless serious financial help. And that’s not available to all.

Adequate housing is key to sustainability and the kind of diversity, inclusion and equity we need to tackle climate change, sustainability and the transition to a low carbon economy.

The social sustainability/equity issue alone is huge.

In the UK and parts of LA in the US the notion of social cleansing and fightback against encroaching developing and rising prices is starting to create a militant backlash from people protecting their neighbourhoods.

See these articles on Boyle Heights in Los Angeles in The Guardian and in The Atlantic’s CityLab.

An extreme but interesting angle in the era of social action/mobilisation.


This event has been sparked by our oversubscribed “Let’s Hack Housing” event last year sponsored by UrbanGrowth, which unearthed a huge range of ideas, solutions and problems.

This is the first in a series of events that responds to what we found.

Here is a list of the ideas/strategies/thoughts and thought bubbles to curb rising costs that have appeared in our media on a daily basis over recent months.

We need you to help us sort the helpful from the useless!

1. Prices – Why do house prices matter? What’s the impact of sharp downturns in prices on the financial system and potential creation of a two-tier owners and renters society.

2. Negative gearing and capital gains tax. Can it/should it be tweaked? Eliminated? Can we regionalise changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax? Melbourne and Sydney are hugely expensive but not other places.

3. Interest rates. How likely is a rise? What impact would it have? Can macro prudential restrictions perform as de facto interest rates changes? (Such as limiting interest only loans or investment lending by banks.)

4. Housing Bonds. What about a Housing Finance Affordability Corporation to aggregate money for social housing projects. The Treasurer seems keen on this.

5. Immigration. Louis Christopher says we’re getting 90,000 people a year into Sydney and 120,000 into Melbourne. Sydney is headed for 5 million and Melbourne is headed for 4.6 million.

6. Wealthy migrants. What’s their impact on housing prices?

7. Foreign buyers. Should we have bigger taxes on foreign buyers? What happened in Vancouver when they put a tax on foreign buyers? (Buyers moved elsewhere and pushed up prices. Would we care if that happened to, say, Adelaide or Hobart?)

8. Empty apartments. Can we tax them? (How are we going to put fair metrics on that? Would a long overseas sojourn be taxed?)

9. Value capture? Can’t that fund affordable housing?

10. Supply. Every developer’s answer. But will it help affordability? Would even double the supply actually bring down prices in any place people actually wanted very much to live?

11. Boosts to buying power – Superannuation or stamp duty cuts. What about a last home buyer stamp duty reduction for downsizers? Or other changes?

12. Pension tests. Imagine if you could sell the family home and keep the money out of the pension test. Would that help supply?

13. Land tax. Can that replace stamp duty? Should it?

14. Developer charges. What’s the impact or fairness of developer charges.

15. Affordable housing contribution in all new developments. Inclusionary zoning.

16. Rental. What about creating a safe secure rental market.

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  1. Hi the Fifth Estate, (pls substitute this for the prior posting)

    At CAAN we are very impressed that you have expanded the issues to be aired at your Forum!

    We post daily on the issue of the loss of housing affordability and how it has come about!

    For various articles to back up what we say about the housing affordability crisis please scroll down CAAN NOTES:


    View the following Notes:

    -The Daigou … the Proxy property purchaser
    -Black money … money laundering in Australia
    -What the Pollies are not telling you … (the FIRB ruling change 2008/09)
    -A Big Australia … ‘The Sting’ … The Greater Sydney Commission
    -Population Growth
    -Strata Law Changes

    THE TURNBULL GOVERNMENT should immediately reverse the FIRB Ruling Change of 2008/09:

    -that allows developers to sell (up to) 100 per cent of new homes off the plan to foreign buyers
    -prior it was 50 per cent; also too high!


    -with the introduction of the Medium-Density Housing Code of the Greater Sydney Commission (up to) 100 per cent of new housing will also be built and sold to foreign buyers due to the FIRB ruling change.

    THE TURNBULL GOVERNMENT should immediately introduce the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation to be applied to the property sector professionals as applied to the banking sector:

    -to eradicate the Daigou (Proxy onshore) from purchasing both new and established propertyfor foreign buyers

    (Refer to Transparency International and the reports of Investigative Journalist Michael West)

    -the foreign buyer/investor also takes advantage of the Australian negative gearing and capital gains benefits!

    Leonie for Community Action Alliance for NSW (CAAN)


    1. Hi Clare, we’re working on it! But in the meantime, we’re coming to Melbourne with a Mad Men for the Planet event 31 May. And another soon!

  2. Existing housing stock may only become affordable:

    (1) after a price crash of 50%, bringing the growth since 2000 back to growth of incomes
    (2) while immigration is reduced

    27 Feb 2017
    Sydney would peak at 4.9 million with zero net overseas migration

    New housing may never again become affordable because of high infrastructure cost due to high cost of materials (wait until physical gas shortages push up the price of bricks) and as Australian capitals have reached their limits to growth

    Their dependency on oil is mind boggling

    HOUSTON – Global oil supply could struggle to keep pace with demand after 2020, risking a sharp increase in prices, unless new projects are approved soon, according to the latest five-year oil market forecast from the International Energy Agency.