Yesterday’s release of the Australian
Bureau of Statistics’ Housing Occupancy and Costs survey for 2003-04
lets us take a look at another angle of the Howard Government.

The
Tenants Union of Victoria has crunched the numbers. They say that not only have housing costs risen by 29% between 1994/95 and
2003/04 but that the number of Australians renting privately has increased from
18 to 21%. As their policy officer David Imber comments, “these changes
are significant and point to increasing low levels of affordability in Australia.”

The Tenants Union puts particular emphasis
on the finding that 30% of renters in the private market are paying
more than 30% of their income in rent, with almost 10% paying
over half. “Paying over 30% of income in housing costs indicates
housing stress and for those in the bottom 40% of incomes paying over
30% is accepted as a measure of poverty,” says the union.

And it’s hard to escape a conclusion
similar to theirs: “With the same proportion of Australians renting as
currently paying off their own home housing policy needs to address the issues
affecting those who rent as well as those who currently do or wish to own their
own home. Through a range of tax concessions like the capital gains tax
concession, negative gearing and generous rental deductions the federal
Government has subsidised the recent housing boom leading to massive house
price increases. Having contributed to record low levels of affordability the
Commonwealth needs to play a leading role in reforming the system to ensure
that all Australians have decent affordable housing.”

Peter Fray

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