Queensland: Housing Relief on the Horizon?

Queensland might be thought of as the Florida of Australia. Like Florida, Queensland is the "Sunshine state." For years, Queensland has been the fastest growing state in the nation, just as Florida has been the fastest growing large state in the United States. The Gold Coast in Southeast Queensland might be characterized as Miami Beach on steroids.

Both states have also faced housing difficulties. With its smart growth land rationing policies, house prices escalated wildly in Florida and then collapsed as America's "drunken sailor" lending policies came home to roost. Queensland has had similar "urban consolidation" land rationing policies and the same house price escalation has occurred. However, the price bust did not follow, because lending standards were more strict. This is because adults were in charge of finance in Australia instead of the cartoon characters that drove policy in the United States. Australian lenders at least asked borrowers if they had a job and checked their pulse.

But there are still housing problems in Queensland. The Urban Development Institute of Australia Queensland has just released its two Richardson reports that, among other things, suggest that restrictions on housing are increasing household sizes. In recent years, only one new house has been produced for each new resident, which compares to an average household size of 2.5. Presumably younger people are living longer with their parents and perhaps, with the strong foreign immigration to Australia, there is substantial "doubling up," as houses are shared by people who would not otherwise live together, such as multiple families (internationally, census authorities define a household as all of the people living in a single house).

Median lot prices and median house prices have risen strongly in Queensland, which has led to a decline in housing construction and a loss of construction jobs. The report recommends allowing more housing development on greenfield sites and developing additional infrastructure on the urban fringe where more housing would be developed. Finally, the report urges that the state establish benchmarks for the time it takes to approve and build greenfield developments.

The Richardson reports are just another indication that the severity of the housing crisis and its causes is more broadly understood in Australia. Queensland would do well to follow its recommendations.

Photo: Gold Coast

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