Immigration blamed for housing crisis
Sydney Morning Herald
April 1, 2008 – 6:34PM
A massive, uncontrolled increase in immigration in the past three years has fuelled the housing affordability crisis, home builders say.
Housing Industry Association (HIA) managing director Ron Silberberg blamed the shortage of private rental accommodation on net immigration he estimated at 250,000 people a year.
“There has been an uncontrolled expansion of the immigration program,” Dr Silberberg told a Senate committee in Canberra.
“The pace in which it's increased has been massive over the last three years.
“Do we need an explanation as to why there's pressure on private rental housing?”
He described the immigration program as a federal government lever which could be used to address the housing crisis.
Asked if he blamed the squeeze entirely on immigration, Dr Silberberg said its effect was substantial.
“It's a very significant influence on the demand for housing and accommodation.”
Dr Silberberg was speaking at the Senate select committee on housing affordability's first day of public hearings.
More than one million Australians are considered to be in housing stress by paying at least 30 per cent of their income on accommodation.
The HIA chief also said the industry suffered from a skills shortage because only a tiny fraction of immigrants had training in residential construction.
Only about 800 of the net figure of 250,000 arrivals had the necessary skills, he said.
“I don't think the department of immigration has a proper understanding of labour market forecasting because that's done by another agency.
“Demand for skilled people and professionals is so tight it's not even worth advertising.”
The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) told the committee that the construction sector's ability to meet demand is just as important as releasing more land.
“Addressing undersupply is a critical issue if we are to ensure that we are able to adequately and affordably house our communities as Australia continues to develop,” PIA national president Neil Savery said.
“We're not saying that addressing supply is the panacea to the problem and certainly that the equation in relation to supply isn't simply: `Let's release as much land as we can possibly can on the urban fringe of the city',” he said.
Institute chief executive Diane Jay said releasing more land sounded simpler than it was.
“There's some evidence that even if there were more land immediately available we really don't have the capacity within the construction and development sector to go a lot further in terms of meeting supply,” she said.
The group welcomed the federal government's planned National Housing Supply Council but said it must produce nationally comparable data on land release as well as new housing statistics.
The hearings will continue in Sydney on Wednesday.