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A Brave Simple Cure for Tasmania’s Housing Crisis

Before you even read about the question or the constraints I’ll give it to you here. For free. Start building new affordable housing targeted at the young families who want and need to buy into a property future. There. Was that so hard to digest?

OK, the problem is more complicated. In the short term, people need shelter and security. And we should do that like it was a State emergency; we should be activating our situation room as though a suburb burned to the ground last week and we need to house and feed everybody who lived there. But we won’t. We would, as decent human beings, except consecutive governments have gone down the road of vilifying anybody who is unemployed and/or homeless as burdens in our society. Giving the poor too much of a leg up out of the gutter just won’t happen… too many Tasmanians would complain.

So, while you’ll see a lot of meetings and discussions in the public sector, it will always end in croissants at noon and everybody back to their safe warm office buildings by afternoon tea. Public servants and their masters just don’t care about the homeless. Not enough to fix the problem. However convincingly their tears.

Which brings us to the long term problem. And the long term systemic failure of consecutive governments in Tasmania to supply housing. It’s no secret that the public housing sector has failed to keep up with the social need for a place to live. Or that a combination of negative gearing tax legislation and private sector Airbnb increases have pushed the poor out of the housing market. Which pushes the employed down into sub-standard rentals, which pushes those undeserving poor out onto the street.

This is a problem all about scarcity. It’s all about the current value of assets in the portfolios of richer Australians that are allowed to negatively gear. It’s all about a system where the decisions that need to be made – to build more affordable housing and lots of it – are supposed to be made by the people currently profiting from the tax loopholes and scarcity that have already driven up property values.

I’m sorry, but Tasmanians are being taken for a ride on this issue. It won’t be solved and homelessness will rise continuously as the rich get richer and the poor move into transient townships of tents and caravans driven on by the Police.

Here’s the answer Tasmanians deserve to hear from the public sector. Our government needs to release a lot of land into public sector housing. The Housing Department needs to go back to hiring their own builders and tradesmen, go back to public sector apprenticeships and fix that problem, too… and when the houses are built do three critical things:

  1. Target the people who buy the houses as low income, first homebuyers, young families;
  2. Cost plus pricing at no more than 10-15% across the project; and
  3. Let go of the illusion that public infrastructure should act like private profit maximising barons.

Yes, it will drive down house pricing as demand releases. And, no, this affordable housing won’t be available for sale to the rich. It would be a public project. But we’ll be a far better community with more affordable housing. There should be no Tasmanian children sleeping in tents and cars tonight. None. And it’s shameful that when all is said and done (and I add this because tomorrow is ANZAC Day, 2018)… society will expect the sons and daughters of the poor to go die for the values and trade deals of the rich. Again.

Australia is working really well for some people out there. And those people, including our politicians and business leaders, don’t want the status quo to change. Why would they? But Australia is a failed story for more and more people who can’t find work or housing to meet their personal security needs. All I offer is the answer. Houses. And more houses. Stop the bullshitting.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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