POLITICS

The Government's Advice For Young People Buying A House Isn't Really That Helpful

Just find a high-paying job and get your parents to help you. Simple, right?

21/02/2017 8:47 AM AEDT | Updated 21/02/2017 11:39 AM AEDT
David Gray / Reuters
The government has lots of helpful advice for buying a house.

Worried about affording a home? Just "get highly paid jobs", says the federal minister in charge of housing affordability. If only it were that simple.

Housing affordability is arguably the most pressing issue facing young Australians today. Jobs and education are critical also, but everyone needs a roof over their head. As house prices skyrocket and growth in the property market far outstrips income, it has become one of the hottest of hot-button issues in the country.

Sydney was recently crowned with the dubious title of the city with the second most unaffordable housing in the world -- with the median home price being 12 times the median income -- and prospective homebuyers are seeing such ludicrous housing events as tin sheds, burnt-out houses and ramshackle shacks selling for more than a million.

Accordingly, the Government has been doling out advice on how to afford a home in recent times. Michael Sukkar, the member for Deakin, is assistant minister to the Treasurer and has been given the unenviable job of addressing housing affordability in Australia. On Sky News on Monday night, he seemed to have cracked the secret: just get a good job.

Of course.

"We're also enabling young people to get highly paid jobs which is the first step to buying a house. It's not the only answer, but it's the first step," Sukkar said.

Just get a good job. This advice comes despite university graduate surveys reporting that as few as 30 percent of young people find jobs right after leaving university -- the best-scoring uni on employment is Charles Sturt at 79 percent, meaning one in five don't get a job after uni -- and starting salaries being anywhere between $43,000 at the lower end and $63,000 on the very top end.

In December 2016, the median house price in Sydney was $1.1 million, nearly 17.5 times the top starting salary for graduates from Australian universities.

Labor leader Bill Shorten wasn't pleased.

Over the years, however, the federal government has doled out equally 'helpful' advice to young people. Its advice comes as it steadfastly refuses to review policies which economists and experts say could markedly improve housing affordability, such as winding back negative gearing or capital gains tax exemptions on property.

A recent 45-page report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics​​ also did not contain one single recommendation to make housing more affordable, in essence claiming the housing market is operating fine and housing affordability is not an issue.

In 2015, former treasurer Joe Hockey had similar advice to Sukkar.

"The starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good money," Hockey said, in comments that drew outrage.

"If you've got a good job and it pays good money and you have security in relation to that job, then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money and that's readily affordable," he said.

Of course, it's not just the treasury ministers who have provided some helpful advice.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull got in on the act in May last year, suggesting young people should rely on their parents to just shell out for a housing deposit. In a radio interview with host Jon Faine, the conversation turned to housing. Turnbull asked if Faine's children were locked out of the market, and said "you should shell out for them, you should support them, a wealthy man like you.

"You've got the solution in your own hands. You can provide a bit of intergenerational equity in the Faine family."

Of course, it's not as if every young person has parents rich enough, or willing enough, to stump up money for a deposit. Even if they did, as we mentioned, the median house price in Sydney is still 12 times the median income, so mum and dad would have to have some deep pockets to help out.

If that's not enough, deputy PM Barnaby Joyce had his own suggestion -- just move to the country.

"We believe that houses will always be incredibly expensive if you can see the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, just accept that," Joyce said bluntly on ABC radio last month.

"I did move out west so I can say this, if you've got the gumption in you and you decide to move to Charleville -- you're going to have a very affordable house."

That will be small comfort for young people who have trained for years and spent many thousands in university fees for jobs in communications, finance, law, science and maths, for which there may be relatively few jobs in Tamworth, Armidale and Toowoomba, where Joyce suggested people move to instead.

So in short, advice from the government:

  • Just get a good, high-paying job;
  • Get your parents to help out;
  • Move to areas where you can't get a job for which you are trained;
  • No need to touch negative gearing or capital gains tax.

Good to know.

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