Treasurer Scott Morrison is encouraging older Australians to downsize and “free up homes for larger families” after a Fairfax Media analysis of census data found more than 2000 homes in Sydney and Melbourne with six or more bedrooms and only one person living in them.
The Turnbull government has acknowledged a lack of supply in key areas is locking younger Australians out of the market, while the Greens and Labor have described Australia’s housing system as “broken” with a “significant social problem”.
On Sunday, figures obtained for Fairfax Media by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed NSW and Victoria are sitting on a glut of 100,000 underused houses, while more than a third of residents in some areas of Sydney and Melbourne suffer from rental stress.
Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson labelled the situation “mad”.
“This illustrates just how broken the Australian housing market is,” he said. “While young people are getting locked out of the housing market, others are sitting in near empty manors.”
Mr Morrison told Fairfax Media he was working with state and territory governments on a new series of housing and homelessness agreements to boost housing supply.
The Treasurer took aim at state governments last year for “farcical hurdles” that have blown out housing developments by up to 12 years on the outskirts of Melbourne, where in some areas the latest figures show there are more than 1500 four- and five-bedroom homes with just one person in them.
The $1 billion plan to fast-track zoning reform will be based on the Britain’s national housing infrastructure facility.
The government is also progressively releasing suitable Commonwealth land for development, starting with 127 hectares of defence land in Melbourne.
Mr Morrison said from July next year older Australians considering downsizing will be given the flexibility to contribute up to $300,000 from the sale proceeds of their home into superannuation as a non-concessional contribution.
“This will benefit retirees who sell their home and move into retirement villages, a smaller home, or in with their children and help free up larger homes for younger families.”
Labor’s housing spokesman Doug Cameron said you would need a microscope to see the effect of the Turnbull government’s housing affordability package and the figures highlighted the development of a significant social and economic issue.
“The problem is we see housing as an investment in Australia as distinct from a home,” said Senator Cameron.
But the families of pensioners, who make up a large portion of single people in large homes, have lashed out at what they see as the unfair targeting of their hard-earned assets.
Under the government’s changes, the sale of the family home would still be counted against the aged pension assets test.
William Calokerinos, whose elderly father owns a four-bedroom home in Randwick in Sydney’s east, said the debate ignored the stress of moving into a new home and away from community support at a time when they needed it most.
There are more than 420 four-bedroom homes, 113 five-bedroom homes and 35 six-bedroom homes with only one person living in them in Randwick, while one in five residents pay more than 30 per cent of their income each week in rent.
“Those ’empty nesters’ have paid taxes worked hard to build this country and contribute to society,” said Mr Calokerinos.
“Why should these people not be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour? The baby boomer generation did not expect to travel every 6 months, they did not require a new tech gadget yesterday and they were often happy to start small and build well-deserved asset wealth.”
Mr Calokerinos said society and the government should be thanking older generations, not attacking them.
“People have a choice, it’s the same as public and private schools,” he said. “If you make $100 million you have the right to live in any house you want.”
The story Morrison urges retirees to ‘free up larger homes for younger families’ first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.