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Calls for more housing as population surpasses 25m

housing up

housing up
Reporter 3 minute read

As Australia’s population surpasses the 25 million milestone for the first time, the Housing Industry Association has urged the government to bring online more affordable housing.

On 7 August, Australia’s population surpassed the 25 million mark, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population clock, which is based on the five-yearly Census of Population and Housing, and updated with births, deaths and migration data.

ABS director of demography Anthony Grubb said: “From our average age, to how long people live and where we live, Australia’s population has experienced major changes.

“Australia’s population has increased more than sixfold since 1901 when it was 3.8 million.

“By 1918, it had grown to 5 million, it had doubled to 10 million by 1959 and reached 20 million in October 2004. It has been just over 2.5 years since we reached 24 million in January 2016.”

With the median age increasing (to 37 in 2017, up from 22.5 in 2019) and ABS finding that Australians are living longer (with almost 4,000 centenarians in 2017), there have been increasing calls for the government to ensure there is adequate housing supply for the growing population.

“The population clock has ticked over to 25 million sooner than predicted, and it is more important than ever that housing supply is kept strong to ensure affordable housing for future generations,” HIA deputy managing director Graham Wolfe said. 

Noting that a 2002 Intergenerational Report estimated that Australia would reach a population of 25.3 million in 2042, Mr Wolfe emphasised that growth had occurred faster than the experts predicted, with ABS estimating that should Australia’s population continue to grow by around 400,000 people per year, the country’s population would be expected to reach 26 million in just three years’ time.

“If these predictions are to be realised, we must find a way to keep new, affordable homes coming into the market to ensure supply is maintained across the country,” Mr Wolfe said.

“To do otherwise would see Australia continue a pattern of undersupply, ongoing affordability challenges and further reductions in home ownership rates.”

According to the deputy MD of the HIA, Australia built a record number of 230,000 new homes in 2016 and a similar amount would need to be maintained to keep up with population growth.

“We know that the excessive cost of supplying new housing lies at the core of the affordability challenge, with almost 40 per cent of a new house and land package being made up of taxes and charges, but equally a stable supply chain underpins greater certainty in affordability,” the deputy MD said. 

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“Governments must recognise that growth in the housing sector and improvements in housing affordability will not be realised by making ad hoc changes to negative gearing, capital gains tax or charges on foreign investors.

“Further, both state and federal governments must come to a unified agreement on developing mechanisms for land supply to be measured and managed across the nation so that a consistent supply pipeline can be sustained to meet housing demand.” 

Mr Wolfe continued: “Cooperation from all three tiers of government is an essential component in keeping the housing market buoyant.

“A strong housing sector at a time of population growth not only means more affordable houses; it means more jobs and a more prosperous economy overall.”

Likewise, the independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich MP, recently highlighted that homelessness in NSW has reached unprecedented crisis levels, with around 38,000 people experiencing homelessness in the state. He therefore called on the NSW Premier to recognise that the state is facing a homelessness crisis that should be given the same urgency as a natural disaster.

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“The homelessness crisis has reached epidemic levels in NSW and now must be considered a state emergency. The stories behind the statistics are heart-breaking,” Mr Greenwich said.

“We know that almost a third of people accessing homelessness services are women and children escaping domestic violence.

“In my own constituency, I’ve heard countless accounts of young LGBTI people getting kicked out of home, some forced to subsequently trade sex for shelter.

“Tens of thousands of people are currently at risk and just like a bushfire, homelessness can burn through a person’s entire life, and like a flood, it can wash away all hope.”

Mr Greenwich is calling on the Premier to use her powers to lead a coordinated whole of government and urgent response to the issue of homelessness, including a combination of short and long-term solutions.

[Related: State governments launch housing affordability initiatives]

Calls for more housing as population surpasses 25m
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