Australian Treasurer Calls for Reasonable Land Regulation

Australia’s Treasurer Wayne Swan called for reducing restrictions on building houses, to improve housing affordability. The Treasurer’s comments came amid growing concern about housing cost escalation that has been highlighted by recent reports, including the 6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey (which identified Australia as the most expensive nation surveyed).

Treasurer Swan told the Herald Sun in Melbourne “Unless constraints to the supply side of the market are addressed, our cities will not adapt to meet the needs of a growing population and we will see continued problems of affordability for ordinary Australians.” He continued: “We are not building enough houses and if this continues then we will all be paying increasingly more and more for our housing whether it be in terms of repayments or in terms of rent.”

Australia’s housing affordability crisis, has been the result of overly restrictive land use policies (called “urban consolidation” or “smart growth”), which by intensively controlling the land supply, raise its price and that of housing. This association between prescriptive land use regulations and the loss of housing affordability has been documented by a number of the world’s most eminent economists, such as Kate Barker, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England and Donald Brash, former Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Brash has said that “the affordability of housing is overwhelmingly a function of just one thing, the extent to which governments place artificial restrictions on the supply of residential land.

Indicating the “can do” attitude so typical of Australia, the Treasurer said: “We can and must do better than this.”