23 Jan Could Labor have it right? – Andrew Cairns
With a lot of opposition to Federal Labor’s view on the future of negative gearing, Andrew Cairns from Community Sector Banking says it might just help with affordability – especially for renters. He explains.
Kevin: Well, with a Federal Election on the cards for this year, there is a lot of talk about what’s happening with Property Negative Gearing, making properties more affordable, but in particular, making properties more affordable for renters. I was interested to pick up on a release from the community sector banking organization about exactly that point, and supporting the Federal Labor oppositions announcement about what it was doing to do just that. Joining me to talk about it the Community Sector banking Chief Executive, Andrew Cairns. Andrew thanks very much for your time.
Andrew: Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Kevin: I want to talk about what we can do constructively to do this, and I know that your organization’s a supporter of what the Federal Labor Government are doing, or, Federal Labor Opposition are doing. How do you think that is going to help. There’s a lot of opposition to removing Negative Gearing?
Andrew: I think that you’ve got to firstly have a look at some of the key drivers behind the issues, and then look at a more, a collective approach. So, as you know, in the last census, 114,000 people don’t know where they’re going to sleep tonight. In excess of 300,000 people looking for social or affordable housing, and that’s not even looking at the number of people who are experiencing lock-out from the rental market. Now, if we’re actually going to look at providing solutions to get a change in market, change in behaviour, and change in how we have a look at the solutions to provide opportunities for people to have access to housing, then there has to be multiple fronts.
Andrew: One is … I went to a seminar where the person said, “Subsidised housing needs a subsidy.” So, I think we have to realise that in Australia, if we’re going to have an inclusive equitable society, then getting people to have access to safe and secure housing is a fundamental right.
Andrew: Two, I think that people look at providing social and affordable housing as a cost to the country, whereas, I actually see it as an investment in having a more inclusive, equitable country. And it’s also an activity, which will improve the productivity, and the capability of people that will be in a position to actually have a house, and a home to call their own. Then can actually start to contribute to communities where they live and be able to be a more willing participant in societal outcomes. So I think … Sorry?
Kevin: No, I was going … No, you keep going.
Andrew: I think also, the opportunities that it needs to occur at multiple fronts. So one will be around taxation reform. How do we correctly start to create the opportunities to bring long term investment in the creation of new ecosystems and new players into the market? So we need to actually have a clear understanding of either the role of government, or the role of incentives to actually bring new investors, new participants into play. I think we also need to have a look at issues around planning as well. The sort of planning that we actually need, the regimes to combat Nimbyism, or Not in My Back Yard, to have better use of existing infrastructure, and better existing … sorry, use of existing access to jobs and transport, et cetera, as well.
Andrew: So with regards to the announcement that was actually undertaken by the Labor Party, we’re very supportive of a long term strategy, and a long term commitment to addressing housing affordability within the Australian market, and it will require change. It will require change in taxation, subsidy, planning, and also commitment.
Kevin: I’m reminded of what happened with the NRAS scheme, and how quickly that had to be dismant … well, sorry, not so much dismantled, but as a project, I know that a lot of people say that it did work, but I have a view that it didn’t work, and unfortunately you’ve only got to look at the value of the properties, and the difficulties in reselling those. And I’m just questioning on two fronts, whether or not having the private sector subsidise rents is the answer, or whether that is a government responsibility. And also penalising investors by removing Negative Gearing, certainly is not going to help add to the housing stock, Andrew.
Andrew: Yeah. I think if you kind of deconstruct the argument to each individual point, then there’s obviously pro’s and cons to all. If I look at what the intent of what’s trying to be done, which is structural change to all players within the ecosystem, so I think that our housing affordability and rent affordability, because we can’t actually neglect that as well, both our housing and rent affordability issues which we have in Australia, have been created over a number of decades. So it’s going to take a long term commitment, and a number of changes to ensure that we can get on the other side of that hump in providing more rental affordability, and more housing affordability.
Andrew: So I think that will require a mixture of changing, or commitment to policy. Commitment to subsidising to bring new entrants into the market, but they’ve got be long term understanding, commitment to tax reform, and to the commitment to that subsidisation. So, I think that it’s a mixture of a number of things which need to … and planning as well. It’s a mixture of a number of things which I think need to be brought to the table for discussion.
Kevin: Who should be responsible for this? Is this a government responsibility that we as citizens of the country need to carry, or is this going to be solely on the back of investors, who are really out to look at building their own net worth?
Andrew: Very interesting question, I’ve probably got a different answer to that. My experience is, it’s the strength of a village or a community is how that community or village includes those that are marginalised, or those that are in need. So I think it’s a mixture. I don’t think… The size of the problem is so large that government can’t just write a check itself and solve it. It’s so large that private enterprise can’t just write a check and solve it. Nor can we just rely on not for profit organisations to mobilise and leverage their cash flows and assets to actually create a solution.
Andrew: I think what needs to change is, a more collaborative approach, a new ecosystem to create the development of capital into the solution. And the only way that can occur is some long term stability in being able to invest. So I think a ten year commitment provides some capability to create a new market, and that can mean, invite new participants, and new collaborations, and new ecosystems to actually get it done. It will be a mixture of government investment, it will be a mixture of private investment, institutional investments, superannuation organisation investments, [inaudible 00:07:57] for new capital, mums and dads, not-for-profits.
Andrew: I think there’s just going to be a need to do things a little bit differently. If we’re going to turn the dial at scale, and that’s the issue, I think a lot of things have occurred which have created some great outcomes, but how do we do it to scale? And I think that one of the things that I learned when I had the opportunity to go to the US was, learning about their low income housing tax credit system which they’ve got over there. 30 year scheme which people can actually mobilise, private investment, and government and philanthropic activity in there to create outcomes. Because it’s long term, it’s known and it’s something which they can actually build a business model around.
Kevin: I’ve been talking to Andrew. Andrew is the Community Sector Banking Chief Executive, Andrew Cairns. And the Community Sector Banking is the not-for-profit banking specialists of more than 15,000 organisations. It’s a joint venture between Bendigo Bank and Community 21 Consortium of not-for-profit organisations. Andrew thank you very much for giving your time. It is a complex issue, one that we certainly can’t solve in ten minutes, but it’s always interesting to get your insight, so thank you very much for your time.
Andrew: You’re welcome. Thanks very much.