Federal Election 2019: Meet the Affordable Housing Party

Summary

Website: https://www.affordable-housing-party.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AffordableHousingParty/
Themes: Single-issue party concerned about housing affordability in Australia.  No policies in other areas, however they identify themselves as being on the progressive side of politics.
Preferences: No how to vote card provided.
Electorate:
Upper House: NSW

Policies & Commentary

The Affordable Housing Party is here for one thing.  Their ‘About’ page declares:

The Affordable Housing Party is a progressive leaning, non-ideological single issue party dedicated to ending Australia’s housing crisis and improving the rights of renters across Australia.

We’ll get onto the housing policies very shortly, but before we do, as with any single issue party, it’s important, I think, to get a sense of how they might vote outside their narrow focus.  The AHP’s are all housing-related, so there’s no help there, but their lead candidate (and possibly co-founder, though it isn’t entirely clear), Andrew Potts, is a former member of the Greens, and a former editor of the Star Observer LGBTQIA+ newspaper.  So it’s probably safe to assume that they would be in favour of addressing climate change and preserving LGBTQIA+ rights.  The AHP also informs us that they believe in evidence based policy (hooray for science!), and will vote for policies which benefit the majority without disenfranchising the vulnerable, so again, we’re looking fairly left-leaning in general.

Oh, and this isn’t super relevant, but I think we are going to need all the light relief we can get to survive this election – the AHP’s Facebook page is notable for a Trump-style hat in avocado green with the slogan ‘Make Smashed Avocado Affordable Again’.  I have to say, this amuses me enormously and also adds to my general impression that this is a party for socially conscious hipsters of the Gen Y and Millennial cohorts (as well as the younger Gen X-ers).  Which makes sense, because it’s the people who were entering the workforce and beginning to look around at the property market after about the late 1990s and especially after the mid-2000s who found themselves facing impossible housing prices.  So I think the AHP are directing their marketing pretty sensibly here.

OK, so about that affordable housing, then.

On the front page of their website, the AHP tells us that ‘Australians are living with some of the most unaffordable housing in the world’, and identify five causes of the problem: ‘obscene’ tax investments to invest in property; lawmakers profiting from the status quo; our housing market being a haven for money laundering; excessive overseas investment in Australian property; and rapid population growth.

For those of you who flinched, as I did, at the ‘rapid population growth’ comment, they add the following statement:

Adding to the pressure on housing and infrastructure is rapid population growth under the Coalition while they simultaneously demonise refugees… Let’s make this clear: immigrants are not “to blame” for expensive housing or congested roads and public transport. It’s Australia’s federal politicians who are to blame for setting irresponsible migration targets to paper over stagnating wages and a weak economy in order to grow the GDP.

The Affordable Housing Party supports a multicultural and diverse Australia and we should never single people out by their race, nationality, culture or religion when it comes to migration. Australia should also do more to support refugees. However the skilled migration targets that the Australian Government sets need to be at levels that are sustainable in the long term when it comes to the demand for housing, schooling, public transport and other forms of infrastructure.

We fear that Australia’s rapid population growth is eroding the laid back quality of lifestyle that attracts migrants to this country in the first place, and we don’t want them to be disappointed when they arrive here and discover they will spend most of their lives sitting in traffic jams, struggling to pay off huge mortgages, and probably working until they are 70 before they can retire.

They are walking a very fine line there, but for the time being, I’m going to assume that they aren’t playing the ‘F*** off, we’re full’ card.  Also, I realise that this is a longish quote, but I wanted to share it with you because it gives you a pretty good idea of the tone of the website – they are making logical, reasonable points, but they are definitely appealing to emotion and a sense of injustice with their arguments.  The AHP is angry about the housing situation, and wants you to be angry too.

So how do they propose to fix the housing crisis?   Well, for a start, the AHP wants to end negative gearing and the capital gains discount on housing sales.  Both of these are financial incentives for people who already own homes to buy more houses to rent.  Similarly, they want to prevent people from investing their Superannuation into residential properties, and to restrict home ownership to Australian citizens and permanent residents (they have no problem with short-term visa holders renting, but they want to reduce competition for Australian first home buyers, basically).

They also want to tax landlords who leave their properties untenanted, and ban full-time Airbnb properties – by which they mean the entire apartments that are never lived in by their owners, and are rented out by the night at far higher rates than standard rental properties.  These two policies are aimed at ensuring that where housing exists, it is actually being used as places that people can live in, long term. In fact, the thrust of all of these policies seems to be to dismantle the model of housing as an investment, rather than a place for people to live.   Which I think is in the public interest.

The AHP plans to use the money saved by abolishing negative gearing and taxing vacant properties to invest in public and affordable housing, and programs to make life easier for first home buyers and renters.

The AHP wants to make life easier for first home buyers experiencing mortgage stress, particularly if (when?) the housing bubble bursts.  Their plan is to create a First Home Buyers’ Compensation Fund to prevent foreclosures by providing interest-only loans which will not need to be repaid until the home is sold.

They would create nationally consistent and improved rights for renters, including an end to no fault eviction.

​And then we get to the bit about ‘A diverse and multicultural Australia but not a “Big Australia”, and this is where the AHP starts to tie itself in knots, because they really want to be nice to immigrants and refugees and being multicultural is awesome and they definitely do not want to be like Fraser Anning, but on the other hand we have too many people – the National Academy of Science says so – and it’s all very stressful for them, because they really don’t want to look racist but but but housing affordability we can’t afford more people aaaaaargh!

(For the record, I don’t think they are racist.  But I think they are a little confused.)

The Affordable Housing Party supports Australia’s migration program and opposes immigration policies that single out particular groups or place refugees on precarious temporary protection visas that are constantly reviewed which would prevent them and their families from planning for their futures.

We also oppose the idea that a divisive national plebiscite should be held on immigration into Australia as has been suggested by One Nation and Senator Frazer Anning.

However we do not support a “Big Australia” of 36 million people or more by 2050 as has been advocated for by the big end of town and would like to see a slowing of Australia’s population growth by setting skilled migration targets to around where they were under the Hawke and Keating governments to reduce pressure on housing and infrastructure.

They want to keep family reunion migration and increase our humanitarian intake (and indeed, do more to fund the UN’s refugee system), and they are worried about the exploitation of migrant workers on temporary work visas, but they are really stuck on the idea that there are just too many people in Australia and that this is making everything unaffordable, and this is bad for migrants, too, you know!

​​Without a change in the rate of Australia’s population growth we will need to build the equivalent of a city the size of Canberra, and all the associated infrastructure to support it, every year just to keep up with demand for housing.

OK, this bit sounds like hyperbole to me, and I’d like to see their numbers.

Oh my, and they have a section called ‘What if everything goes wrong?’, which is basically ‘What do we do if the housing bubble collapses?’.  To which the answer is apparently ‘a limited program of quantitative easing similar to what has been suggested by former NSW Treasury secretary Percy Allan‘.  I followed that link and it took me to a paywall, but the article title says ‘Halve immigration and print money’, and readers, I am *concerned*.  I am no economist, but I am almost positive that printing money never worked out well for anyone, and the halving of immigration is making me eye the AHP suspiciously again.

On the upside, they don’t believe in bailing out the banks.  I think that’s an up-side.  I’m no longer sure.  I mean, there ought to be consequences when the banks behave irresponsibly.  But having everyone who banks with one of the Big Five lose all their money doesn’t sound like a good idea, either, and isn’t that what would happen at that point?  (Again, so very much not an economist here.).

Overall… this party has some very good ideas, and are drawing attention to a really important issue.  But their contingency plans are alarming, to say the least, and I think they need to figure out what they actually think about immigration.

Look, I haven’t even reviewed any other parties yet, and already I know that there are going to be *so many* parties competing for the bottom of my ballot.  The AHP is definitely not one of them.  But it’s not going to be at the top, either.  Expect to find it somewhere in the upper third, or upper quarter, depending on who else is lurking on my ballot paper.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

Hmm.  The AHP really deserve a song with ‘House’ or ‘Home’ in the title, don’t you think?  I was going to give them the happy, hippy ‘Coming Home‘ by Sjonni’s Friends (Iceland, 2011), but after reading their thoughts on dealing with a bursting housing bubble, I’m seriously tempted to give them ‘House on Fire‘, which was a finalist in Germany but didn’t get to Eurovision. So that’s probably not in the rules.

But let’s face it.  I’m probably going to have my Election / Eurovision playlist on in the background while I’m watching the commentary on election night, whenever that happens, so perhaps I should try to pick some songs I actually like?  And I do actually quite like this mob, even if I have some reservations about their clarity of thought and problem-solving strategies.  So I think I’ll give them Malta’s 2014 contender, ‘Coming Home’, which is folky and harmonious and sung by hipsters.  Sounds about right.

 

4 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet the Affordable Housing Party

  1. Have you read _Space Opera_ by Catherynne Valente yet? It’s been described as “Eurovision in space.” You might enjoy it. The excerpts I’ve heard read are a hoot!

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