Planning, costs the housing problem on city fringes

Jan 25 2017 at 11:30 PM

Action on affordable housing ‘can’t wait’: Michael Sukkar

by Roje Adaimy

Housing affordability could be a centrepiece of the Turnbull government’s 2017 budget. Michael Sukkar, the newly sworn-in assistant minister to the treasurer, says it’s an important issue that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. “In a sense, the issue can’t wait,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday. The Liberal MP said the prime minister had made it very clear he wants his government to do everything they can – in partnership with the states, who have primary responsibility for housing supply. Asked whether it will be a fundamental part of this year’s budget, he said: “Possibly but I wouldn’t want to categorically say it.” “I’m acutely aware that the hopes and dreams of many people will rest partly on the policies and decisions we take.”

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce caused a stir by saying people have to accept houses will be more expensive if they have views of Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge and should consider moving to regional areas. It follows a recent survey that rated Sydney’s houses the second-least affordable in the world.

Mr Sukkar said it was inevitable given how concentrated the population is in the capital cities and sought to clarify Mr Joyce’s comments. “Long-term, more decentralised job creation and planning is an answer,” he said. “But just to say ‘well, you need to move to a regional area’, you and I – and I know the deputy prime minister knows this – is not simply something we can say to those whose gainful employment can only be achieved in a CBD of a capital city.”

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen believes young people will listen to Mr Joyce’s views and say “he’s got to be kidding”. “Sydney’s housing is unaffordable an hour’s drive from Sydney … to suggest people should just move to Charleville or Tamworth, seriously?” Mr Bowen told ABC radio.