Are first home buyers failing to see benefits of housing stimulus?

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on July 07, 2022 Fact Checked
Are first home buyers failing to see benefits of housing stimulus?

New research reveals first homebuyer grants may be benefitting existing homeowners more than new homeowners.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has today released a report containing data compiled by research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University and the University of Sydney.

It examines first home buyer (FHB) assistance programs in Australia and seven comparable countries comprising Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

The research, ‘Assisting first homebuyers: an international policy review’, assessed the effectiveness of assistance programs in expanding access to home ownership to those whose entry would be otherwise delayed or impossible.

The cost of home ownership being made more affordable and less risky was also assessed.

An examination of the seven other countries found their FHB grants and concessions to be better complemented by supply-side measures like Government commissioned or mandated development of low price homes.

The report also revealed these countries were utilising more cohesive housing strategies than Australia.

Author of the report Dr Chris Martin of UNSW City Futures Research Centre said Australia uses demand-side instruments and lacks a strategic framework.

“Current Australian first homebuyer assistance measures primarily act to bring forward first home purchase for households already close to doing so, rather than opening home ownership access to households otherwise excluded,” Mr Martin said.

“These measures simply add to demand and push up property prices, and the amount of public funds spent on these schemes is huge – more than $20 billion over the past decade.”

According to the report, the most prominent forms of FHB assistance in Australia during the past two decades have been demand-side interventions, which involve a benefit directly received by the consumer.

These interventions include rules governing mortgage lending like low-deposit mortgage products, as well as FHB grant schemes and tax concessions such as stamp duty savings.

“Unlike countries such as Finland and Singapore, Australian governments have resisted prioritising first homebuyers’ genuine interests by reforming tax settings that favour their housing market competitors: established homeowners and would-be rental investors.” Mr Martin said.

Identified in the report are four researched supply-side models that Australian governments could consider:

  • Build to rent to buy.
  • Land rent schemes.
  • Private developer contributions to homes for cut-price sale.
  • Government acting as a housing developer of cost-price homes.

Head of Research and Managing Director of Propertyology Simon Pressley said the biggest barriers for first home buyers are rising home deposits and stamp duty.

“The single biggest revenue source for every state government is stamp duty and whatever you do to reduce that, there has to be a corresponding increase or revenue somewhere else,” Mr Pressley told Savings.com.au.

“This [scrapping stamp duty] means a tax somewhere else because that revenue funds our hospitals, our roads and tunnels and we don't have enough of that infrastructure. So it's never as simple as just saying scrap that.”

Instead, Mr Pressley recommends the introduction of an incentive for first home buyers.

“What the state governments could do is agree that for a property up to ‘x’ amount of dollars, we won't charge you stamp duty if you've never purchased property before," he said.


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Georgia joined Savings.com.au in 2022 as a finance journalist. With a passion for property, investing and budgeting, she is committed to helping Australians of all ages make informed economic choices in all aspects of life.

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