The government has walked away from social housing. Now we are paying the price

Housing policy in Australia has a split personality: we are either shaking our heads at how hard it is for wealthy millennials to buy their first home or we are wringing our hands at the plight of the homeless. Policymakers have responded in a piecemeal and often counterproductive fashion to these individual and seemingly isolated issues, providing financial incentives to first homebuyers and crisis support for those on the streets. This view of the world sees housing as a game of winners and losers, where the role of government is to set people on the road to a secure financial future while giving a helping hand to those who fall through the gaps. If there is a crisis in the housing market, this story goes, then it affects the nearly well-off and the very, very poor. But if this were true housing would be a niche political issue – felt deeply by specific demographic groups but really not affecting others. Instead, housing affordability has consistently rated among the top-tier political issues in recent years and continues to do so, even as there is a reported fall in housing prices.