Housing affordability: Resurrecting the Australian dream – Sydney

Urban Houses, Sydney, AustraliaIs the great Australian dream becoming a fantasy? Public anxiety about housing affordability is on the rise. Home ownership rates are on the decline, especially among the young. Australian house prices have more than doubled since the mid-1990s, outstripping incomes. Without change, a generation of Australians risks being locked out of the housing market.

Australian governments are responding. Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison says he will use the May budget to tackle housing affordability. The Victorian State Government has already announced a plan to help first homer buyers. New NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has nominated housing affordability as one of her top priorities. The issue of housing affordability has vexed Australian governments for decades Successive federal and state governments have told voters they can fix the problem. And all the while house prices have continued to rise. There is no shortage of proposed policy solutions. But how do we sort the good from the bad?

In this Forward Thinking event at the State Library of NSW, Jessica Irvine, senior economics writer for Fairfax Media, Princess Ventura, Director at Urbis and Grattan Institute Fellow Brendan Coates discussed the problem, and weighed the options for reform.


Jessica Irvine is one of Australia’s leading economics journalists, renowned for her ability to explain complex ideas in a simple and entertaining way. She has written for Fairfax’s The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers for more than a decade, including a two-year stint in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery. Between 2012 and 2014 she was National Economics Editor of News Corp Australia’s tabloids, including the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, the Courier-Mail and the Adelaide Advertiser, before returning to Fairfax. She is the author of two books, Zombies, bananas and why there are no economists in heaven: The Economics of Real Life and The Bottom Line Diet.

Princess Ventura is a Director at Urbis. She is an economist with years of international and local experience. Princess has studied and worked in the Philippines, the United States, Sri Lanka and Australia. She worked for eight years at the World Bank, advising governments on policies to reduce poverty and promote economic growth. At Urbis, Princess applies the same expertise in economic research and analysis to help clients make evidence-based decisions to design places that work – shopping malls and business parks, city and port revitalisations, urban renewal and residential developments.

Brendan Coates is a fellow at the Grattan Institute. Brendan has extensive experience advising on public and economic policy issues. Brendan worked with the World Bank in Indonesia, and prior to that, with the Australian Treasury, including as part of the Treasury’s China Policy Unit. Brendan holds a Masters of International Development Economics from the Australian National University and Bachelors of Commerce and Arts from the University of Melbourne.