According to The Australian Financial Review, housing affordability will be a major defining issue of the next decade according to Mark Steinert, the chief executive of diversified property heavyweight Stockland and the president of the Property Council of Australia.
"Our industry will need to work with new partners to advance this debate – and we should be willing to do so," he says.
"We must see ourselves as part of the solution – because if any group should believe in housing affordability and in building better communities, and more productive cities, it is our industry."
The question is whether such a stance is any more than a new, softer, way of reworking the Property Council's longstanding campaigns to preserve negative gearing, to reduce property taxes in general, and to weaken planning restrictions on developers.
Mr Steinert says that the four years of house price growth in Sydney and Melbourne "cannot go on."
"Our cities have not kept pace with the economic demands on them. We have taxed our growth too much, held back the creation of the housing and investment the country needs, and not built the infrastructure for our growing cities."
"The end result is that increasingly families and pensioners can't afford to buy or own a home and live in our cities. This is even more remarkable given the lowest interest rates in history."
Mr Steinert says home ownership is the "foundation of the Australian story." It had helped create the country's large middle class, with a lower gap between rich and poor than in most countries, a social cohesion that was "the envy of much of the world", and wealth creation and security for millions.
"The only way to change lack of affordability is to take a higher profile position and engage with the community," he says.
Mr Steinert says property developers and owners accept that "everyone has to make a fair contribution to taxation" but he points out that the property sector pays more tax than any other industry in the country.
"If you put too many taxes on property, you push investment away to other sectors," he says.
Mr Steinert says the property industry does not simply want less restrictive planning.
"We are looking for more comprehensive planning, that meets the broad outcomes required by the community, much like the Greater Sydney Commission aims to achieve," he says.
"You need a consistent and co-ordinated approach that creates a productive and rewarding outcome with facilities like childcare, schools, hospitals, retail and open space."
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