No quick fix for housing affordability crisis

THEY are known for their ability to perform verbal contortions, but the housing affordability debate must still be proving particularly taxing for our nation’s politicians.

There wouldn’t be a member of the federal – or NSW – parliament who would be willing to dismiss the matter as trivial or unworthy of their government’s attention.

(Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce went close in January when he said those who couldn’t afford to buy in Sydney should buy in Tamworth or Armidale, and was roundly criticised for it.)

But there also wouldn’t be a member of the federal or NSW Parliament who would want to look down the barrel of a television camera and say they fervently hoped that the houses in their electorate would significantly drop in value – which, after all, would be the quickest way for those same houses to become more affordable for those looking to buy.

The fact both new premier Gladys Berejiklian and federal treasurer Scott Morrison have singled out this topic for special consideration shows how it has grown as a political problem.

A solution, however, remains elusive.

While Ms Berejiklian concentrates on releasing more housing stock in already overstuffed Sydney, arguing that it is only greater supply that will reduce prices, Mr Morrison has been publicly mulling an idea to let home-buyers access their superannuation to bolster their purchasing power.

More than one economist says that, rather than making houses more affordable, this is likely to add to galloping prices as more money rushes into the market.

Mudgee and other parts of regional NSW have been beneficiaries of the overheated Sydney housing market, drawing families from the big smoke who either can’t get a foothold on the property ladder or who want to cash in their housing chips.

But all of NSW stands to suffer the aftershocks if buyers’ faith is suddenly shaken and the Sydney market spectacularly collapses.

Mr Joyce said back in January that the bush accountant in him says a house should be worth about three times the household’s income.

Using that formula, there are a lot of buyers in Sydney – and in Mudgee in recent years – who aren’t taking the bush accountant’s advice. It’s worked for them so far, but when rates start rising it might be more obvious if it all adds up.