Radio Interview with Nic Healy – ABC Western Plains Breakfast – Monday 28 March 2022


SUBJECT: Labor’s Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme.

NIC HEALY, HOST: Housing has rapidly become one of the biggest issues across our region. I think you and I talk regularly not just about how expensive housing is at the moment but how much demand outstripping the supply. It’s a huge problem. I’ve got to say, solutions have been few and far between. Now late last week, Labor launched its Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme designed to help home buyers, obviously, get a house with a deposit of around five per cent and not needing to pay Lenders Mortgage Insurance. Labor saying that it could actually save people in our part of the state up to $24,000. Now, the announcement was made by Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Jason Clare Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Jason Clare, good morning to you. 


HEALY: Now, this is a big focus from Labor on the regions. You are clearly saying regional housing has a big battleground for the upcoming election.

CLARE: We’ve seen housing prices skyrocket right across the country, but they’ve gone up more in regional Australia than anywhere else. On average, prices have risen in capital cities by 21 per cent. But in the regions, they’ve risen by 26 per cent. Part of that is the interest rates being at emergency levels, but part of it is people moving from cities to the regions. We’ve seen prices go through the roof and a lot of young people who live in the regions being outbid, unable to be able to afford to buy their own place in the place where they grew up, went to school, got their first job, found the love of their life and they want to be able to buy a home in the region, they’re finding it more and more difficult.

HEALY: Look, we’re hearing this morning that of course tomorrow’s Budgets going to see the government expanding its own home guarantees schemes, they’re going to add in a new program for first home buyers putting down a smaller deposit if they’re buying newly built in a regional area. Compared to that, what makes Labor’s plan stand out?

CLARE: I’m glad to see that they’ve copied and pasted the plan we announced last week. What it’s really about is trying to help people to be able to buy a home with a five per cent deposit without having to pay that big ugly mortgage insurance bill. The government’s had a scheme now in place for a couple of years. We backed it, we said it’s just too small. There’s a lot more people who need that support that can’t get it. The scheme is almost always fully subscribed. That’s why we said we’d triple the number of spots for regional Australians. You see it in Dubbo where prices have jumped about 25 per cent in the last 12 months, you see it in Mudgee where it’s jumped by 29 per cent. Other places are the same. With prices going up, more people in the regions need this sort of help, because if you’ve been saving for a couple of years to get that 20 per cent deposit, with prices going up as fast as they have in the last 12 months, that 20 per cent deposit now looks more like 10 or 15. This scheme can help you to buy that home without having to pay that big mortgage insurance bill when you sign on the mortgage.

HEALY: Of course, this is only just one element of it. For many places, there’s just not the housing to buy at the moment. And that’s getting more problematic as well. You speak to anyone who’s tried to find a builder in a regional area at the moment, and they’ll be tearing their hair out.

CLARE: That is a massive problem as well and if you can find a builder, you’ll find that the building materials have gone through the roof as well. The cost of timber is through the roof. Almost every element of building a home has jumped over the course of the last 12 months. On top of that, there’s not a lot of land that’s been approved for development. The Government, when they were elected 10 years ago, got rid of the Housing Supply Council whose job it was to make sure that there’s enough land to build on. They promised that they were going to release Commonwealth land to be built upon, not much has happened there either. If we’re going to fix this problem, you really need the federal government, the state government and the local government working together to try to make sure that we’ve got the land we need to build on. They don’t even talk to each other about this at the moment.

HEALY: So, do you say that Labor could change that communication?

CLARE: This is one of the first things we’d do if we’re fortunate enough to win the next election. As I said, the Housing Minister in Canberra doesn’t talk to the housing minister in New South Wales. You need to get the housing and planning ministers across the country meeting and working together. We said we’ll do that if we win the next election. We’ll also develop a National Housing Plan that would be developed with the states and with local government that would report to National Cabinet. Unless you’ve got all levels of government working on this, you’re not going to fix it.

HEALY: Jason Clare is my guest, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. Jason, home ownership is just one element of the crisis. Affordable rentals are at an all-time low. For many, many towns. There is a lot of concern that we could be looking at an increase in home insecurity and homelessness, especially in older Australians.

CLARE: You’re already seeing it, Nic. As rental vacancies drop, rental prices have gone through the roof. In some places, we’ve seen rents jumped by as much as 20 per cent and the charities I speak to all around the country tell me that they’re seeing now as many as three times as many people this year as they were last year, and often they’re people that have got a full-time job. But quite often, it’s older Australians. The fastest growing group of homeless Aussies in Australia are older women in their 50s and 60s. Think about women that could be our mum or our Auntie or our grandmother, that’s where we’re seeing the biggest growth in homelessness. That’s why organisations like the company that owns the Women’s Weekly, Women’s Day, New Idea (audio disrupted)