Figures released early this week by insurance holding company Genworth Finance show that around two-thirds of Australians own property, but that those hoping to get a foot on the property ladder face significant ownership hurdles.

The Genworth mortgage trends report found 69% of the population owned residential property in some form. Of the non-property owners, 49% said they would ideally like to purchase a home in the next 12 months, but only 17% expected to be able to do so.

“First home buyers want to enter the market [but] they are struggling,” said Peter Hall, the MD of Genworth Financial, Australia and New Zealand.

And if they’re living in the nation’s capital, they’re struggling on another front, too. Housing ministers are meeting in Canberra today. Figures released earlier this week by the Tenants Union of Victoria show that Canberra has the lowest level of rental affordability. Vacancy rates are below two per cent, and the TUV says “for those on the minimum wage there are some levels of affordable housing in every capital except for Canberra”.

The ACT rental market seems set to get still tighter. Prospective tenants in the territory will be forced to bid against each other for rental accommodation, with the first of the formal auctions to take place within weeks, The Canberra Times reports :

The unprecedented move has been condemned by ACT Housing Minister John Hargreaves who described it as “a predatory practice that has a very large smell of carpet-baggery about it”.

And ACT Tenants Union executive officer Deborah Pippen labelled the proposal “unfair” and said her organisation would oppose the practice.

A pioneer of the practice, Real Estate director Peter Blackshaw, told the Times rent auctions had been taking place unofficially for some time and it was necessary to formalise it in order to avoid rorting and to allow the market to find its true level. Isn’t that what people like him are supposed to do – for the landlord’s sake, as much as the tenants.

Here’s another matter for the ministers.

Peter Fray

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