Hockey told the media on Tuesday that homes in Sydney do not carry unreasonably high price tags. Otherwise, no one would be buying them in the first place.
“If housing was unaffordable in Sydney no one would be buying it, but people are still purchasing housing,” Hockey said.
“And there are a range of incentives put in place by state governments for first homebuyers, but the starting point for a first homebuyer is to get a good job that pays good money.”
The Australian said his remarks come at the end of a 12-month period during which prices in Sydney have jumped more than 15% and loan approvals for first homebuyers was down to just one-sixth of all loan approvals.
The comments met criticism from the Labor party, with Bill Shorten saying Hockey didn’t understand the pressures facing Australian families.
The Opposition Leader called the remark “just another Joe Hockey gaffe”.
“As if Joe Hockey hasn’t insulted families enough, he’s at it once more. This is ‘poor people don’t drive cars’ all over again,” Shorten said.
“What planet is Joe Hockey living on? Joe Hockey must be the only person in Australia who doesn’t think housing affordability is an issue. As far as he’s concerned, if Joe Hockey’s doing OK then everyone else is too.”
Shorten also questioned how first homebuyers were supposed to get a job, let alone a high-paying job, when Australia’s unemployment levels were at a 10-year high.
“[Property in Sydney] is expensive as a multiple of average weekly wages, but having said that, a lot of people would much rather have their homes go up in value than fall,” Hockey said.
Hockey also denied the suggestion that foreign buyers were boosting the price of property for local homebuyers. Instead, he sees offshore investors as a valuable source for investment and new housing. This is despite cases of illegally acquired properties by foreigners.
“We want Australia to have more housing stock, and foreign investment does help in that regard but not when it comes to existing real estate,” he said.
Hockey agreed “there was still a long way to go to uncover illegal foreign investment in Australia” and that the public can play a role by reporting any suspicious activity.
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