The desire to build a home in Tasmania is stronger than ever,

AN adequate housing stock is the foundation of a society’s social capital, facilitating the proper functioning of a competitive labour market and the most important store of wealth for most Tasmanian families. It is crucial for a well functioning economy.

In recent years, new housing supply has consistently not kept pace with demand. Before 2010, dwelling investment averaged 5.4 per cent of our economy. But in 2011, housing investment fell to 4.4 per cent and stayed there for the best part of the next decade.

That may not seem like much of a fall, but over a decade that one per cent difference added up to a shortfall in housing investment of close to $1.2bn, enough to build an extra 3000 new homes.

The result is housing costs which have increased at a faster rate than average incomes for over the same period.

It took a pandemic for governments to take real action.

Master Builders pushed for HomeBuilder to be a centrepiece of the recovery strategy because we knew that given the support, Tasmanians would take the opportunity to break into the housing market. What we underestimated was how strong the desire was in the community, if given the opportunity, to build a new home. Our initial modelling of the scheme estimated that the grants would support $149m in direct construction activity, enough to build 600 new homes.

In the end, more than 2600 Tasmanians applied to receive the grants, enough to support 6400 construction jobs and unlocking more than $2bn in economic activity.

HomeBuilder proved that if people are given the chance to overcome the deposit gap — the significant savings needed to secure a mortgage — they will choose homeownership.

More people owning their own home will be the lasting legacy of HomeBuilder.

It will mean more people will take advantage of the long terms social and economic benefits that come with homeownership.

People who own their home, particularly in retirement, are significantly more secure financially than those who do not. They enjoy a high standard of living. They are also less likely to rely on the welfare system, reducing the fiscal burden on government, a win for the community at large.

How we continue to keep the dream of homeownership alive for as many aspirational Tasmanians as possible should be central to any incoming government serious about securing the future prosperity of our state.

We also cannot ignore those who are most in need in our community. We must do better at building housing across the spectrum of housing needs. Building more social housing is important.

But if we are truly compassionate, the goal must be the pursuit of social housing policies that help people get out of supported housing and into homeownership.

Tasmania tops the state ladder in its share of social housing. We do less well in breaking the cycle of dependence that keeps people in social housing.

We need to do better at building capacity in the construction industry to better meet the needs of the community, particularly in times of peak demand. Capacity constraints have again come to the fore in recent months and supply shortages are putting pressure on the costs of land, materials and trades.

The first thing you need to give more people the opportunity to own their own home is access to affordable land.

Premier Peter Gutwein, in his State of the State address, noted that 6000 hectares of land is zoned for new residential construction. That is enough to support new housing construction until beyond 2050. But without encouraging or compelling development to make this land available and shovel-ready for new construction, supply constraints will continue to get in the way of building the number of homes we need.

At the ballot box on May 1, it is worth considering who has a better plan to provide us with the housing we need to prosper.

This includes providing shelter for those most in need.

It includes unlocking land supply and training up the next generation of Tasmanian tradies so we can build the 30,000 new homes we know we will need over the next decade to keep the dream of homeownership alive and well.

After all, it’s not a house, it’s a home. And a person’s home is their castle.

Everyone should have the opportunity to own their little piece of paradise.

For comment contact Matthew Pollock 0409 815 731.