Federal Treasury has delivered a serious rebuke to the Coalition for exaggerating the impact of Labor’s negative gearing and capital gains changes.
In emails released under freedom of information, acting treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer requested the department fact check the Coalition’s claims that Labor’s policies would cause house prices to fall.
In response, Treasury issued a correction: “The [s]tatement is not consistent with our advice.”
“We did not say that the proposed policies ‘will’ reduce house prices,” the email reads.
“We said that they ‘could’ put downward pressure on house prices in the short-term depending on what else was going on in the market at the time.
“But in the long-term they were unlikely to have much impact.”
Labor has jumped on the release, with shadow treasurer Chris Bowen saying that the government had been “caught red-handed” misrepresenting Treasury’s advice.
For his part, treasurer Josh Frydenberg denied that the government was misrepresenting Treasury, pointing to the Financial Review’s take on the release that changes “could” put downward pressure on house prices in the short term.
Frydenberg quoted building industry group the Masters Builders Association figures.
“If Labor’s policy is in place you’ll see 32,000 fewer jobs and 42,000 fewer homes being built.”
House prices hit spending
It has been a difficult week in economic policy, with GDP figures released on Wednesday revealing that the economy has slowed significantly, entering a “per capita recession” for the first time in 13 years.
Retail trade figures for the March quarter were also sluggish, with falling house prices impacting wealth and spending.
RBA governor Philip Lowe highlighted the link between the two at the AFR annual business summit on Wednesday.
“The evidence is that a tightening in credit supply has contributed to the slowdown in credit growth,” Lowe said.
“The main story, though, is one of reduced demand for credit, rather than reduced supply.
“When housing prices are falling, investors are less likely to enter the market and to borrow. So too are owner-occupiers for a while.”
Queensland’s 100,000-property public housing shortfall revealed
Queensland has a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, an issue that is projected to get worse by 2036 according to new research.
More than 102,000 additional social houses are currently needed across the state, and 54,700 affordable houses are also needed with nearly 13 per cent of Queenslanders spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
By 2036, Queensland is projected to need 254,300 more social and affordable houses – the second-highest unmet need behind NSW, the report found.
The new figures come from a UNSW City Futures Research Centre report on social housing shortfall across Australia.
Regional social housing shortfalls are higher than in Brisbane, the data shows, but Brisbane residents are slightly more likely to be spending more of their income on rent.
Housing Minister Mick de Brenni said housing affordability was a “big issue” for Queensland.
“Through the Palaszczuk government’s $1.8 billion Queensland Housing Strategy, Labor is driving key reforms and targeted investment across the housing continuum,” he said.
“The Strategy commits us to build more than 1000 affordable homes for Queenslanders, as well as a further 4522 new social homes to help ensure everyone has a safe, secure and stable place to live.”
Lead researcher Laurence Troy said 22.5 per cent of Australia’s entire housing growth must go to social housing to meet demand into the future.
“Our analysis shows that the sheer number of households in rental stress across the country means that if we’re going to meet the need, at least 12 per cent of all our housing by 2036 will need to be social and affordable housing – which is a very reasonable ambition in global terms,” Mr Troy said.
“To cover the backlog of unmet need and future need in Australia two in 10 new homes will need to be for social housing over the next 20 years, and a further one in ten for below-market affordable rental housing.”
Mr Troy said the research’s financial modelling found the “best and cheapest way” for governments to meet the need for social housing was to fund it through upfront grants and low-interest government financing.
“Delivering below market rental housing through the not-for-profit sector, as opposed to the private equity model, will save $3 billion a year by removing developer mark-ups and shareholder returns,” he said.
The financial modelling was commissioned by the NSW community housing sector.
Mr de Brenni said the state government was “listening” through its recent public consultation on rental reform and was committed to investing in affordable housing in partnership with community housing, to provide more subsidied homes for low income earners.
“We heard Queenslanders are struggling to afford rental properties in the suburbs close to where they work,” he said.
“Through our Build-to-Rent pilot project, we are seeking to work with the private sector to increase the number of long-term, affordable rental properties for low to moderate income earners, including key workers in health, early childhood and hospitality.
“Internationally, the Build-to-Rent model is delivering fantastic outcomes and facilities for tenants and we’re looking to see what the market is open to delivering here.
“The pilot, if it proceeds, will see $70 million invested towards delivery of hundreds of affordable rental properties for key workers in inner-city areas where affordability has been identified.”
Mr de Brenni said the registrations of interest for that pilot had seen strong market interest, and the department was considering the responses before calling for expressions of interest.
Queensland to rank among best state markets in 2019
Queensland’s housing markets are expected to rank among the best performing across Australia during 2019 as they have the key factors that drive growth – liveability, affordability, booming infrastructure and enhanced economic prospects.
The Sunshine State leads the nation when it comes to confidence in residential property, as the gears shift from recovery to rising prices.
The NAB Residential Property Index recently tipped Queensland house prices will grow the fastest of the nation over the next two years.
The survey of more than 300 property professionals confirmed rising sentiment around the Queensland markets. And these property professionals also saw Queensland leading the way when it comes to rental growth.
South East Queensland is tipped to be the prime beneficiary of Sydney and Melbourne’s property slowdown, with the state possibly set to return to its place as Australia’s No 1 destination for interstate migration, as more families and downsizers from the southern cities cash-in for a lifestyle in the sun.
2018 saw strong price growth across Queensland, from suburbs of Brisbane to the coastal localities.
Economic growth and jobs now assisting the property market’s performance as Queensland emerges from the shadow of the mining downturn.
It is the value gap between the East coast capitals that makes the move compelling for many.
The value gap is the largest it has ever been between Brisbane and Melbourne and the largest in 15 years with Sydney, according to CoreLogic.
A typical house in Brisbane is around $393,000 cheaper than Sydney and $227,000 cheaper than Melbourne, with Brisbane’s median sitting at $542,000.
Observers suggest this affordability, coupled with positive economic signs, means Queensland is primed for future growth.
The increasing opportunity to work remotely, having set up a home business, or taking up a new job in Queensland is a do-able option.
Brisbane’s median house price sits at new highs, after posting a 2.3 percent increase in the September quarter, with the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) CEO Antonia Mercorella saying the strength of growth proved that Queensland real estate was a good investment and could be relied upon to deliver capital growth.
“While other markets around the country are struggling in the face of tightened lending criteria and cooling investor appetite, the southeast corner of Queensland continues to deliver steady, sustainable growth,” Mercorella said.
“Queensland’s economy is proving itself to be a good performer, against a backdrop of national gloom, with new jobs bringing population growth and demand for housing.”
The REIQ found coastal Queensland locations ranking as the state’s strongest performers during 2018.
These included Mackay’s housing market which has come back from the mining downturn to post 5.6 percent annual growth in its median house price, according to the REIQ’s late 2018 figures.
“We are confident this growth can continue for the moment,” the REIQ advised.
The region has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.3 percent, while the population is growing as jobs attract workers back to the region and the rental market is one of the tightest in the state with just 0.9 per cent vacancy.
With a $340,000 median house price, Mackay is still one of the most affordable coastal districts, with prices still at levels below the peak of the mining boom five years ago.
The tightening of bank lending standards has been seen across Queensland, as noted by the latest SEQ report by Ray White on house and land sales.
Despite this there has been an increase in house and land package prices, up 7.8 percent in Brisbane, up 5.05 percent on the Gold Coast sales and 4.99 percent on the Sunshine Coast where house and land package are a popular way to create a new start.
Estate agent John McGrath noted recently that Queensland’s top two regional performers were the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast due to rising demand from interstate home owners and investors.
One of McGrath’s pinpointed suburb’s to look out for in 2019 was Pimpama, in the northern part of the Gold Coast.
Pimpama recorded Queensland’s fastest population growth at 31 percent in FY17, with many enthusiastically buying or building brand new homes.
“Pimpama is affordable with a median house price of $475,000 and is located within the rapidly developing northern Gold Coast region along the M1 corridor,” McGrath said.
The $100 million Pimpama City Shopping Centre opened in 2018 and the $56 million Northern Gold Coast Sports and Community Precinct is set to open in 2020.
There’s also plans for a new train station to better connect Pimpama to Surfers Paradise.
The economic forecaster BIS Oxford Economics concluded Brisbane will lead the mainland capitals with price growth.
Negative gearing changes will affect us all, mostly for the better
Don’t have a negatively geared investment property? You’re in good company.
Despite all the talk about negatively geared nurses and property baron police officers, 90 per cent of taxpayers do not use it.
But federal Labor’s policy will still affect you through changes in the housing market and the budget. Here’s what you should know.
Labor’s negative gearing policy will prevent investors from writing off the losses from their property investments against the tax they pay on their wages. This will affect investors buying properties where the rent isn’t enough to cover the cost of operating the property, including any interest payments on the investment loan.
Doesn’t sound like a good investment? Exactly right: negatively gearing a property only makes sense as an investment strategy if you expect that the house will rise significantly in value so you’ll make a decent capital gain when you sell.
The negatively geared investor gets a good deal on tax – they write off their losses in full as they occur but they are only taxed on 50 per cent of their gains when they sell.
Labor’s policy makes the tax deal a little less sweet – losses can only be written off against other investment income, including the proceeds from the property when it is sold. And investors will pay tax on 75 per cent of their gains, at their marginal tax rate.
Future property speculators are unlikely to be popping the champagne corks for Labor’s plan. But other Australians should know that there are a lot of potential upsides from winding back these concessions.
Limiting negative gearing and reducing the capital gains tax discount will substantially boost the budget bottom line. The independent Parliamentary Budget Office estimates Labor’s policy will raise about $32.1 billion over a decade.
Ultimately, the winners from the change are the 89 per cent of nurses, 87 per cent of teachers and all the other hard-working taxpayers who don’t negatively gear. Winding back tax concessions that do not have a strong economic justification means the government can reduce other taxes, provide more services or improve the budget bottom line.
Labor’s plan will reduce house prices, a little. By reducing investor tax breaks, it will reduce investor demand for existing houses.
Assuming the value of the $6.6 trillion property market falls by the entire value of the future stream of tax benefits, there would be price falls in the range of 1 per cent to 2 per cent. Any reduction in competition from investors is a win for first home buyers.
Existing home-owners may be less pleased, especially in light of recent price falls in Sydney and Melbourne. But if they bought their house more than a couple of years ago, chances are they are still comfortably ahead.
And renters need not fear Labor’s policy. Fewer investors does mean fewer rental properties, but those properties don’t disappear – home buyers move in, and so there are also fewer renters.
Negative gearing would affect rents only if it reduced new housing supply. Any effects will be small: around 90 per cent of investment lending is for existing housing, and Labor’s policy leaves in place negative gearing tax write-offs for new homes.
All Australians will benefit from greater stability in the housing market from the proposed change. The existing tax breaks magnify volatility. Negative gearing is most attractive as a tax minimisation strategy when asset prices are rising strongly. So in boom times it feeds investor demand for housing. The opposite is true when prices are stable or falling.
The Reserve Bank, the Productivity Commission and the Murray financial system inquiry have all raised concerns about the effects of the current tax arrangements on financial stability.
Negative gearing would affect rents only if it reduced new housing supply.
And for those worried about equity? Negative gearing and capital gains are both skewed towards the better off. Almost 70 per cent of capital gains accrue to those with taxable incomes of more than $130,000, putting them in the top 10 per cent of income earners.
For negative gearing, 38 per cent of the tax benefits flow to this group. But people who negatively gear have lower taxable incomes because they are negatively gearing. If we look at people’s taxable incomes before rental deductions, the top 10 per cent of income earners receive almost 50 per cent of the tax benefit from negative gearing.
So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the share of anaesthetists negatively gearing is almost triple that for nurses, and the average tax benefits they receive are around 11 times higher.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says aspirational voters should fear Labor’s proposed changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax.
But for those of us who aspire to a better budget bottom line, a more stable housing market and better opportunities for first home buyers, the policies have plenty to find favour.
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