Many of Australia’s aspiring first-home buyers were likely disappointed by the housing affordability measures introduced in the 2017 federal budget, analysts said.
John Flavell, CEO of Mortgage Choice, told CNBC’s Squawk Box on Wednesday that out of the nine budget measures aimed at tackling housing affordability, at least three could potentially drive up demand.
The housing measures included increasing the capital-gains tax discount for affordable-housing investments, offering lower-tax options for first-home buyers trying to save for a home deposit, and introducing incentives to encourage seniors to downsize their homes.
House prices have loomed large in the nation’s political landscape as affordability continues to plunge, with regulators forced to deal with the double whammy of a slowing economy and ballooning house prices.
Demographia data for the third quarter of 2016 showed that the median house price in Sydney was 12.2 times more than the median household income. In Melbourne, the median house price 9.5 times more than the median household income.
In April, house prices in Sydney were flat on-month, but up 16% on-year. In Melbourne, prices rose 0.5% on-month and 15.3% on-year, according to data from CoreLogic. Overall, CoreLogic’s data showed that house prices had risen 0.1% on-month in April across the capital cities, the weakest increase since December 2015.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan told CNBC’s The Rundown on Wednesday that despite analysts’ protestations, he believed the country had a huge bubble in the housing sector.
“It’s making houses unaffordable for many Australians, but it’s also, if you like, changing investment patterns in the economy in [not a very good way],” Swan said. “They should have moved comprehensively on doing something about negative gearing and the capital-gains tax discount.”
The budget also made cosmetic changes to the negative gearing rules for property investors.
Negative gearing rules permit homebuyers to borrow funds to buy a property with the expectation that the mortgage repayments will be larger than the rental income. The “loss” is then offset against their taxable income—a system that makes owning real estate as an investment an attractive option.
An additional incentive comes from the capital-gains-tax system. Under this system, 50% of capital gains made on investment assets held for a full year are tax-free.
The federal budget tinkered with how to calculate expenses for negative gearing and removed travel expenses as a deduction. “When we are so heavily invested in investment property, anybody that [tampers with] any elements … is treading on some pretty politically sensitive areas,” Flavell said.
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