Post 3: Mapping the participants and constructing an image archive

By structuring the major stakeholder groups on a closed loop we can start to consider the relationships between groups and individuals. The government has a direct relationship with homeowners with a need to appease their voter base being the main reason that policy continues to support property owners and leave first home buyers and lifelong renters without a voice. We also began to look at how the media shapes community and political opposition, often shifting attention from Australia’s housing affordability issues to a misinformed, scarily xenophobic bashing of foreign investment.


1. A Global Sydney: overshadowing the need for affordable housing


The globalisation of Sydney, as presented in the 2005 Sydney Metropolitan Strategy, is useful in geo-political and economic terms, but at the local level we will see important repercussions for urban planning and affordable housing provision. The commodification of urban spaces and renewal of ‘under-used or dilapidated areas’ threatens public housing in inner-city suburbs.


2. Banana-nomics: ‘Is assuming houses are like bananas making us look like apes?’


Following the 2011 cyclone banana prices skyrocketed. As predicted, when supply recovered net prices reduced for farmers by 61%. In contrast, between 2010/11 and 2013/14 when Sydney dwelling completions doubled from 14,000 to 28,000 dwellings, housing prices went up by 21%. A “just make more” strategy will fix the problem of expensive bananas, but not expensive houses. When the price of bananas goes up, consumption goes down, and vice versa. The housing market works perversely, demand increases with price due to expectation that prices will continue to rise – and because we all need somewhere to live.


3. Money Rules: Who has agency in the housing market?


The general public feel powerless when it comes to housing. In this photograph the sign yells the message at us, ‘money rules’, but it is the body language that moves us; heads lowered, sunglasses concealing their faces, we see two defeated people without a voice. The mantra of the Australian government that housing is ‘best left to the market’ is adding insult to injury when we step back and consider the tax concessions, such as negative gearing, that so greatly benefit existing property owners.


4. The history of foreign investment: Cartoon by Nicholson from The Australian newspaper 18/06/1990


Individual foreign investment in residential real estate has been a major political issue for over 30 years. Analysis of media in the 1980s shows that people blamed the flow of Japanese money for property inflation and the difficulties first-home-buyers faced. Recent governments, just like the Hawkes government in the 1980s, seek to attract Asian capital. The latest inquiry has found that the media coverage of the ‘Asian property invasion’ is misinformed; foreign investors aren’t the main part of Australia’s housing affordability problem. In fact, we should see foreign investment as an opportunity to invest new capital into affordable housing.


5. The dream of owning a home


The naïve assertion that housing wealth trickles down has been shattered by the housing disparity of 2016 Australian cities. The idea of a property-owning democracy where housing trickles down to those who need it, is an empty one. Housing affordability is an issue with clear winners and losers. For the youth, it seems like owning a home will remain just a dream for many Australians.


6. ‘Why 100 years without slum housing in Australia is coming to an end’


In Australia’s early years slums were common in the inner areas of the cities and many country towns. Overcrowded and poor quality houses are a very real threat to people’s health. Government intervention and economic prosperity throughout the last century saw housing conditions improve to what we know today. Now the same conditions that gave rise to substandard housing in the 19th century are returning in the 21st, with a likely similar outcome. Poor-quality housing makes the already disadvantaged even worse off; disadvantaged groups have a strong need for housing that supports their health and wellbeing. ,


7. Politicians hold $300m in property


The 226 members of the federal parliament have an ownership stake in 563 properties, an average of 2.5 properties per member. By multiplying the 563 properties by the median dwelling price $530,000 we can say the properties are worth $298m – or possibly much more if these properties are in high value areas. Transparency and impartiality are at the heart of Australia’s democracy, and yet those who represent us are only on one end of the housing disparity.It would be foolish to think that property holdings don’t influence the decisions of politicians on housing, taxation and superannuation policies.


8. Owners this way, renters that way


As housing prices increase so to do rent prices. This rise then pushes more people to try and make the leap from ‘renter’ to ‘owner’, a process that for many is extremely difficult. The long-term equity and accumulation of wealth that comes with owning a home is a huge financial advantage over renting. I have found that so often when researching housing affordability the focus is on homeowners, reflecting how the wealthy have a more dominant voice in the housing conversation. I want to start to consider rental affordability as this is a more pressing issue to me and fellow students – and one that is often ignored.


9. The key to your new home


Negative gearing was one of the most divisive issues this past election. Labor claim that major beneficiaries of the policy are those in the highest earning brackets, while the Coalition claimed any changes would punish ‘mum and dad investors’. Both statements are clearly true, but what isn’t clear is what needs to be done. Instantly scrapping negative gearing would cause a huge drop in prices, unfair to those who bought assuming the tax advantage would be further available – an unpopular option for either major party to pursue.


10. Urban design: the first and second order


The relationship of new housing to what already exists around it is often poorly conceived and formulaic. How can the planning system improve? First-order design involves the architecture and design of developments. Second-order design involves taking a step back and involving the local communities and authorities, encouraging working partnerships and high-quality buildings. While a more difficult, consuming process, second-order design is a proven way to build better, and better-received, homes.

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