An affordable housing own goal for Scott Morrison

From The New Daily.

There was considerable shock on Friday when Treasurer Scott Morrison announced legislation that could block billions of dollars of new housing supply – bizarrely enough, in the name of ‘affordable housing’.

Property developers are aghast at Mr Morrison’s draft legislation, because although they see it as giving a small leg-up to the community housing sector, they think it will block literally billions of dollars in investment in mainstream rental dwellings.

Both measures relate to an established way of bringing together large pools of money from institutions or wealthy individuals as ‘managed investment trusts’ (MITs).

Mr Morrison’s draft law is offering MITs a 60 per cent capital gains tax discount for investing in developments run by recognised ‘community housing providers’, rather than the normal 50 per cent discount.

But at the same time the legislation bans MITs from investing in all other residential developments.

The reason that has shocked property developers is that they have been anticipating for some time that MITs would play a major role in the emerging ‘build-to-rent’ housing market.

Two types of build-to-rent

There is some confusion around the term ‘build-to-rent’ at present, because it is being used to describe two quite different kinds of housing, both of which are booming in the UK and US.

The first is a straightforward commercial proposition. A developer might build a 100-dwelling development – be it townhouses, low-rise apartments, or high-rise flats – but instead of selling off each home to speculators or owner-occupiers, it retains ownership and rents them out directly.

The second variation is similar, but involves government subsidies and the input of community housing providers, to keep rents low.

That model, being championed by the likes of shadow housing minister Doug Cameron, would connect large investors such as local super funds or overseas pension funds, with long-term investments that provide secure, good-quality rental properties to lower-income Australians.

So when you read the term ‘build-to-let’, have a look at who is using it – it could mean fancy apartments with swimming pools, gyms or other communal facilities, or just decent housing that cash-strapped people can afford.

A fatal contradiction

What’s so surprising about Mr Morrison’s two new measures, is that they appear to work against each other.

One is trying to push rents down for low-income groups squeezed out of the mainstream market, but the other looks to crimp supply in the mainstream market and thereby push rents up.

That would be a big mistake, because both kinds of new dwellings are needed as our increasingly dysfunctional capital cities look for ways to ‘retro-fit’ sprawling suburbs with higher-density housing.

For many years now I have complained that the housing market didn’t have to get to this point – negative gearing and the capital gains tax breaks that have helped push home ownership out of reach of many Australians should have been reined in years ago.

But they were not, and the market, and the economy more generally, has become dangerously unbalanced by the housing credit bubble that those tax breaks created.

If that imbalance is successfully unwound – by wages catching up to house prices – it will be a small miracle, but it will also take a long time.

In the meantime, increasing housing supply in the right areas of our capital cities is a good way to keep a lid on prices, albeit rents rather then purchase prices – though an abundance of good rental properties can lower those, too.

That is what Mr Morrison’s draft legislation is jeopardising.

Labor, as you might expect, has slammed the ban on MIT investments, which shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says “has completely ambushed the property and construction sector”.

Much rarer, is for the Treasurer to be at odds with the Property Council – the lobby group he worked for between 1989 and 1995.

But it has also been scathing of the change.

It said on Friday: “The answer to Australia’s housing problem is more supply. Build to rent has the potential to harness new investment that could deliver tens of thousands of new homes and provide a greater diversity of choice for renters.

“… the unintended consequence of the draft legislation is to completely close down the capacity for Managed Investment Trusts (MITs) to invest in build to rental accommodation. This risks stalling build-to-rent before it starts.”

Given that kind of opposition, it’s hard to see the MIT investment ban becoming law – or if it did, the government that put such a ban in place ever living it down.

The Zombie Economy and Mortgage Rates

From The New Daily.

The Reserve Bank of Australia surprised nobody when it left official interest rates on hold on Tuesday at the record low of 1.5 per cent for the 13th consecutive month.

Governor Philip Lowe said he’d done that despite the fact that there is some light appearing on the economic horizon.

“Labour markets have tightened further and above-trend growth is expected in a number of advanced economies, although uncertainties remain,” he said.

The bank has an “expectation that growth in the Australian economy will gradually pick up over the coming year”, he said.

That positive note is challenged by some, with Stephen Anthony, chief economist with Industry Super Australia, telling The New Daily that there was not real evidence that things would improve soon.

“I’d say to the bank, ‘Stop pretending you do know and issuing statements based on faith’,” he said.

“Central banks are practicing faith-based economics and the quantitative easing and rate cut policies of recent years have created zombie economies.”

You can argue the toss about the RBA’s view but the ‘zombie’ economy is creating opportunities for those wanting to borrow to buy property.

Steve Mickenbecker, director with rate watch group Canstar, said there had been some declines in interest-only interest rates for property in recent times.

“I was a little surprised to see the decline in interest-only loans because they had been increasing as APRA had told the banks it wanted to see less investment and interest-only lending,” he said.

“Most of the fall has been triggered by moves by St George/Bank of Melbourne who may have responded to seeing their lending volumes fall.”

The average interest-only investment rate has fallen 0.71 per cent to 4.93 per cent with the best deal in the market sitting at 4.14 per cent.

This is welcome news for interest-only borrowers “who have stuck it out with investor interest-only loans and, on average, copped a 40-basis point rise over the last 12 months, adding $116 per month to the cost of a $350,000 mortgage”, said Sally Tindall, Money Editor at rate watch site RateCity.

Deals for those wanting principle and interest investment loans have dropped marginally to 4.73 per cent with the best deals at around 4.09 per cent, according to Canstar.

For home buyers there has been some downward movement with average rates down 0.17 per cent to 4.73 per cent while the best deals are at a low 3.65 per cent.

Mr Mickenbecker said: “I’ve had anecdotal evidence that there are some better deals for owner-occupiers being offered for new customers but not for existing customers.”

Ms Tindall said traditional home owners have good opportunities in the current environment if they’re prepared to really shop around.

Australians opting to live in their properties and pay down their debt can nab a rate as low as 3.44 per cent.”

There are even rock bottom investment deals available.

“While there are 510 owner-occupier loans under 4 per cent, investors have just 49 to choose from,” she said.  

The RBA’s decision came ahead of Wednesday’s GDP data, which is expected to show the economy is growing marginally slower than the RBA’s most recent annualised forecast of 1.75 per cent.

Dr Anthony said the economy has effectively been “set adrift” by the “economics of faith”.

“The question is when you ride a bike more and more slowly, at what point do you fall off?”

CBA’s Potential Exposure To Foreign Jurisdictions

From The New Daily.

The Commonwealth Bank could face big penalties on top of estimates of $300-$500 million fines in Australia if international regulators are forced to act over its breaches of rules around money laundering and terrorism financing, experts say.

Foreign regulators have been far harder on banks than their Australian counterparts, levying billions of dollars in penalties in recent years.

The bank is to be investigated by regulator APRA in an unprecedented and wide-ranging review of its governance, culture and accountability structures as a result of its latest scandal.

But if the tentacles of its misdeed spread into foreign jurisdictions, then international regulators could get involved, leaving the bank open to potentially huge penalties.

“The US Federal Reserve and potentially the Securities and Exchange Commission could get involved if any transactions involved US dollars,” said independent economist Saul Eslake.

“Jurisdictions like Singapore, the UK, the EU could be involved or even China if it felt it was a sovereignty issue,” said Pat McConnell, honorary Fellow in Applied Finance at Macquarie University.

In recent years, major international finance scandals around the rigging of benchmark interests rates in UK, European, US and Japanese markets have led to massive fines totalling over $9 billion for some of the biggest names in international banking.

On these scandals “banking regulators have led the charge but they have also involved the US Department of Justice”, Mr McConnell said.

If the CBA scandal were to spill out into foreign markets the effects could be wide-ranging. As well as fines, “if the transactions involved US dollars, regulators could suspend or impose conditions on the use of CBA securities in the US market”, Mr Eslake said.

“That could make it hard to issue shares in the US or for investors to trade in Commonwealth Bank bonds.”

Brian Johnson, a banking analyst with CLSA, pointed to the danger of international repercussions for CBA in a note to investors issued this week.

“The problem is that many of these transactions identified by AUSTRAC saw funds remitted outside of Australia which could leave CBA vulnerable to fines in those domiciles where penalties for bank misbehaviour have been much bigger than in Australia,” he said.“Furthermore, bank counter parties will likely be looking at CBA exposures in the light of these alleged AML [money laundering regulation] breaches.”

That, in lay persons terms, means that other banks may cut exposures to CBA because they think it has become a business risk or charge more to do business with it. That, in turn, would affect CBA’s profits.

“With CBA having facilitated the transfer of AML breached funds to Malaysia and Hong Kong, those country’s regulators will be reviewing CBA for potential AML fines,” Mr Johnson said.

“New Zealand regulators are believed to be reviewing CBA’s intelligent deposit machines.”

Way beyond a  ‘simple coding error’

Mr Johnson said that CBA’s misdeeds go “way beyond a ‘simple coding error’” as the bank had claimed.

“The narrative in the AUSTRAC full claim (against CBA) is far more salacious, with tales of laundering drug monies, transferring funds for terrorism, ignoring recurring concerns of branch staff regarding implausible cash deposits and ignoring directives from the Australian Federal Police,” Mr Johnson said.

“While CBA is likely to go through the motions of preparing a defence to AUSTRAC’s claims it’s likely CBA would seek an out of court settlement to avoid the prolonged adverse detailed reporting that would inevitably follow court proceedings.”

Mr Johnson said he believed CBA could face Australian penalties or settlements of $300 million to $500 million, plus the risk of offshore fines.

CBA credit card scandal ‘just the tip of the iceberg’

From The New Daily.

The Commonwealth Bank credit card insurance scandal is the “tip of a very large iceberg”, legal experts have warned.

Philippa Heir, a senior solicitor at the Consumer Action Law Centre, welcomed the bank’s promise to repay $10 million to 65,000 students and unemployed people sold dodgy credit card insurance.

“Unfortunately it’s very widespread,” she told The New Daily.

“We’ve seen misselling of this sort of insurance on a large scale.”

On Monday, corporate regulator ASIC revealed that CBA – already mired in a money-laundering scandal – had agreed to refund about $154 to each of the 65,000 affected customers, who were sold ‘CreditCard Plus’ insurance between 2011 and 2015 despite being unable to claim for payouts.

CBA told the market it “self-reported the issue” to ASIC in 2015, and that the insurance was “not intentionally sold to customers who were not eligible”.


It was an example of what Consumer Action calls ‘junk insurance’, which is where inappropriate insurance policies are slipped covertly into the paperwork for car loans, credit cards and other financial products, or where the salesperson pressures the customer to buy unsuitable coverage.

Ms Heir said the CBA example was by no means an isolated case, and that many victims were poor.

“People who’ve spoken to us say they were told they had to [pay for insurance] or they would not qualify for finance for the car they needed to support their family. So this is affecting people on lower incomes significantly.”

Last year, ASIC published the results of a three-year investigation of add-on insurance sold by used car dealers. Its sample group paid $1.6 billion in premiums for only $144 million in payouts.

This amounted to an average payout of nine cents per dollar of premiums, compared to 85 cents for comprehensive car insurance, ASIC reported.

Consumer Action has set up a website to help Australians claim refunds from insurers. More than $700,000 has been claimed so far.

Here are the potential warning signs that a policy may be unsuitable.

Be wary of pressure selling

Consumer Action’s Ms Heir said high-pressure sales tactics were a danger sign.

“The key is, if you’re being put under pressure to buy insurance, that might ring alarm bells that you should shop around.”

An independent review of the banking sector, released in January, contained shocking revelations from bank staff who reported being forced to oversell financial products, including unnecessary insurance.

One anonymous bank teller said: “If I do not meet my daily sales target I have to explain how I will catch up at morning meetings of the team. I am behind in sales of wealth and insurance products and need to catch up to keep my job.”

Be wary of add-on insurance

ASIC’s recent investigation related specifically to add-on general insurance policies sold by used car dealers. It found “serious problems in the market”.

These add-on policies cover risks relating either to the car itself, or to the car loan. Examples include ‘consumer credit insurance’ and ‘tyre and rim insurance’.

Consumer Action agreed it was a high-risk area.

“One person we spoke to spent $20,000 for add-on insurance on a $60,000 car loan, so it took that loan from $60,000 to $80,000, which is hard to even comprehend,” Ms Heir said.

Be wary of insurance for small losses

An expert on investor behaviour, Dr Michael Finke of Texas Tech University, warned in a recent financial literacy series that fear of losing money temps consumers to buy unnecessary insurance.

Buying a policy is “rational” only when the probability of losing money is low and the size of the potential loss is high, Dr Finke said.

“It’s a good strategy to make sure that you let the small ones go so you can focus on insuring bigger losses.”

He recommended setting a “risk retention limit” – a dollar figure below which you don’t insurance yourself.

“This limit should be based on your wealth and your ability to cover a loss if it happens,” he said. “This may mean keeping a little bit more money in a liquid savings accounts just in case.”

Bank compensation bills for scandals hit $355 million

From The New Daily.

The bill for the big banks in recompensing clients over financial scandals is continuing to rise, with the ANZ last week ordered by regulator ASIC to boost by $6 million to $10.5 million its compensation to mistreated OnePath superannuation customers.

That news “is a shock but not a surprise” said Erin Turner, campaigns director with consumer group Choice, although “it shows another disappointing outcome”.

While the extra cash will be welcomed by wronged ANZ customers, it’s small beer compared to what the banks have had to pay all up. In recent years a series of scandals have seen the big banks hit with compensation bills of at least $355.4 million.

Most of that money came as a result of mistreatment by bank financial advisory arms which, among other things, involved forging client signatures to switch investment choices without permission. Banks also charged clients advisory fees without giving any financial advice.

The figures are staggering with ASIC demanding the banks pay back a total of $204.9 million and of that only $60.4 million has been paid to date. The banks still owe $144.2 million, plus an interest component which has not been detailed.

A spokesman for ASIC said the shortfall in payments is not the result of a time payment regime drawn up by the regulator.

It is the result of the fact that the banks are having to trawl through their records to find details of the customers concerned and how much money they are owed, which apparently takes time. Just how much time presumably depends on the banks.

The list provided does not include all the high-profile scandals of recent years. The cost to the CBA of the money laundering scandal involving 53,700 transactions breaching reporting laws is yet to be determined and there are other issues under investigation or legal challenge.

There are also bank-related issues like the $500 million collapse of Timbercorp and the $3 billion Storm Financial collapse where incentives and lax lending saw the life savings of thousands go up in smoke, often at the latter stages of life when recovery was impossible.

Where recompense is made it doesn’t necessarily fully compensate for losses. For example the CBA repaid Storm Financial investors around $140 million when estimates of losses by those who borrowed through CBA were far higher than that.

Naomi Halpern, an activist who suffered personal losses in the Timbercorp collapse, says often compensation arrangements are inadequate. ANZ was a significant lender to Timbercorp investors.

“They’re not even giving back all of what has been lost. There is no recompense for the trauma and suffering people go through, you only get a percentage of the loss,” she said.

Ms Halpern is working with the review of banking dispute resolution led by Professor Ian Ramsay. She said while the committee is consulting widely the banks to date have only agreed to a prospective scheme that will compensate for future wrongs.

“They’re not interested in a retrospective scheme,” she said.

To date CBA has been hit with the biggest bills for compensation following the banking scandals. Payments will total $245.8 million when its compensation over financial planning misbehaviour are completed.

The bank reported a record profit of $9.88 billion last week and its theoretical liability over the money laundering issue totals almost $1 trillion.

Any settlement is likely to be far lower than that but with ASIC now pledging to look at the actions of CBA directors over the issue, there looks like being considerable personal and financial angst experienced at the bank before the issue is laid to rest.

Term deposits ‘copping it’

From The New Daily.

Australian banks are borrowing money at record-low rates from their term-deposit customers, despite needing their cash more than ever.

Dozens of institutions have cut the interest rates they pay on locked-away savings, even though the Reserve Bank hasn’t touched the official cash rate since August last year.

The RBA reported in recent days that rates on three-month and six-month term deposits have fallen to record lows.

Martin North, finance expert at Digital Finance Analytics, said savers are “trapped” and “copping it”.

“The banks have quietly been eroding the returns on deposits at the same time as they’ve been lifting the interest rates on their mortgages,” he told The New Daily.

“It frustrates me that everybody is fixated on mortgage rates, but we’ve got this other segment of the population that is intrinsically trapped by these lower interest rates.”

term deposit ratesAverage rates on three-month term deposits peaked at 6.55 per cent in 2008, just after the global financial crisis, and have plunged ever since. In July, the latest figures available, the average rate fell below 2 per cent for the first time since records began in 1982.

Back in 2008, a saver with $10,000 could have earned $163 for locking away their cash for three months. Now, with the average rate at just 1.95 per cent, they’d be lucky to get $48 for their trouble.

Since the RBA cut rates last year, 59 institutions have slashed their three-month term rates (compared to four increases); 47 have cut one-year rates (with only 17 increases); and 24 have cut five-year rates (compared to just six increases), according to comparison website Canstar.

“My suspicion is we’re not going to see term deposit rates go up until we see the Reserve Bank go up,” said Steve Mickenbecker, chief financial spokesperson at Canstar.

“The banks have not felt any need to compete harder.”

More galling for borrowers is the fact, revealed by the RBA, that banks need term depositors more than ever.

RBA assistant governor Christopher Kent told an event in Sydney on Wednesday that banks are increasingly borrowing from everyday Australians the money they use to fuel their profits, rather than from expensive overseas bond markets like New York.

Deposits now account for 60 per cent of bank funding, Mr Kent said, up from lows of 35 per cent before the financial crisis – a shift he described as “quite stark”.

This is because the market and regulators have pressured the banks to rely more on term deposits, as this source of funding is considered more resilient to economic shocks.

Here’s how to make the banks pay more for the money they need.

Term is better than nothing

Finance analyst Martin North said many Australians have their money in online savings accounts, without realising they could be getting a better deal from a term deposit.

“There are many people holding their money at call, rather than in term. They will probably not be aware how much their interest rates have dropped in recent times because a lot of people set and forget,” he said.

In July, online savings accounts were paying a miserable 1.65 per cent on average – compared to 1.95 per cent for three and six-month terms, 2.25pc for a year, and 2.5pc for three years.

“If you can afford to tie your money up for a bit longer, it’s probably worth it because you’ll get better rates.”

Never break a contract

Mr North said it is “almost always” a bad idea to pull money out of a term deposit before it reaches maturity in order to take up a better offer elsewhere, as you will often be charged a hefty penalty.

“If you’ve got money in a term deposit, you’ll be locked into a specific term. It’ll be a contract,” he said.

“So be very careful about breaking contract to chase higher rates, as you’ll be charged an arm and a leg to do that.”

Look beyond the big banks

Term deposits are not just offered by the big four banks. They are available at smaller banks, community banks, credit unions and building societies across Australia, so it could be a good idea to compare widely before choosing an account.

“Don’t just automatically assume that the bank you’re with gives you the best rate, because they may not. There’s no guarantee they are,” Mr North said.

“So shop around.”

Never auto-renew

Steve Mickenbecker at Canstar said one of the biggest mistakes made by term depositors was rolling over at the same institution, without comparison shopping.

“If you go into term deposits, be prepared to be a little bit active. Maybe that means going for your six or 12-month term, but be prepared to shift when you get to the end of that term,” he said.

“Never do an auto renew. Look at the rates on offer every time you approach maturity.”

Be wary of super-long terms

Banks may be keen for long-term customers, but the market expects the RBA to lift rates relatively soon.

Mr North said locking away your money for too long could mean you miss out when rates eventually rise.

“Bear in mind that the likelihood in the medium term is that rates will go higher still, so you probably don’t want to go out too far because effectively you might be sitting on a rate that in two years time looks rather cheap.”

Consider an annuity

An alternative to the term deposits sold by banks are short-term annuities offered by life insurance companies, with terms of one year or more.

Justin McMillan, financial planner at Perth-based Smart Wealth, said annuities have better rates because providers are “aggressively” chasing new customers.

“Annuities are basically like extended term deposits, but the rate, because it’s from a life insurance company rather than from a bank, is normally better,” Mr McMillan said.

“They are a growing product, so it’s really a market share play.”

Anyone is eligible, and two of the biggest providers are Challenger and CommInsure. But remember: unlike term deposits, they are not guaranteed by the government.

Editors note. DFA changed the wording in the fourth paragraph as the original article as written confused borrowers with savers!

Home saver scheme may eat into your super before buying you a house

From The New Daily.

The Turnbull government’s plan to allow first home buyers to direct up to $30,000 of superannuation savings into a housing deposit could end up draining super accounts and costing savers more than using a traditional bank account.

Stephen Anthony, chief economist with Industry Super Australia, said the First Home Super Saver Scheme, sold by the government as a housing affordability measure, would offer limited benefits to first home savers and threaten retirement savings.

The plan, introduced in the May budget, allows first home buyers to salary sacrifice up to $30,000 into their super account at a maximum rate of $15,000 a year.

The savings are taxed at the super rate of 15 per cent on the way in, which is lower than the 19c bottom tax rate and so gives you a benefit. When funds are withdrawn they are taxed at the marginal rate of the saver less 30 per cent.

This is where the plan strikes trouble. The ATO doesn’t simply tax the money you take out when you buy a home, it will assume you made a return on it that is equivalent to the bank bill rate (what banks pay professional investors) plus three per cent.

That guaranteed return is added to the amount you withdraw, which is fine if your super fund is earning that amount or more. But in years when your super fund makes less than that benchmark, money is effectively being taken out of the rest of your super to make up the figure the taxman wants you to have.

“Super funds will be forced to dip into compulsory savings to cover shortfalls in ‘guaranteed’ returns, leaving people with much less at retirement,” Dr Anthony told The New Daily.

Those transfers from your super to fund your home deposit can be significant. For the year to June 2016, for example, using the ATO’s formula would have seen you transfer an average of 2.3 percentage points of your general super returns into your deposit savings account, ISA research says.

There are other problems with the proposal, due to go before Parliament in the second half of the year, as well. While it might look attractive at first blush, the savings you think you’re making are less than they appear.

The super contributions tax will take a significant bite from your fund.

“People must also understand that after paying super contributions and earnings tax, the $30,000 put into the scheme could be worth as little as $25,000 on withdrawal,” Dr Anthony said.

People are likely to forget that if they had saved the money into a high interest savings account they would have avoided to the contributions and earnings tax as well as getting interest on their deposit.

For people carrying HECS/HELP debt from their tertiary education days, the benefits are even less. That’s because they have to pay back their debt once they hit relevant income targets.

Add all that together and the overall benefits from the scheme shrink significantly, as the chart above demonstrates.

Eva Scheerlinck, CEO of Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, said the plan is in conflict with the aim of super because it diverts benefits to current housing needs.

“The use of a super fund for a deposit on a first home is inconsistent with the sole purpose test which requires that super funds maintain benefits for members’ retirement or for insurance-related purposes,” she said.

“It is also inconsistent with the government’s own stated objective of superannuation to provide income in retirement.”

Rising mortgage debt is the biggest threat to super balances

From The New Daily.

New data suggests rising property prices are a threat to the retirement system, as many Australians use their superannuation balances to pay off their mortgages before they retire.

The latest investment update from NAB highlights that many Australians are concerned about ending their working lives in debt. It reported an increase in the number of respondents who feared a lack of retirement savings. It also found that paying down debt was the highest priority for the next 12 months.

Likewise, the 2017 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report – widely reported in recent days for its concerning home ownership numbers – also showed that both men and women were spending considerable chunks of their super to pay debts.

It found that men paying down debts spent on average $240,000 to do so in 2015, or 58 per cent of their super, while men helping family members spent $108,500, around 84 per cent of super. Women paying down debt spent $120,500, or 70 per cent of super and those helping family spent $67,000, or 48 per cent of super.

Some men and women also spent up big on things for themselves, as the following table shows. However, men spent far more than women here, indicating the gender imbalance in superannuation accounts.

Ian Yates, chief executive of the Council on the Ageing (COTA), said rising property prices could force more people to pay down more mortgage debt on retirement in the future.

“People are paying off debts of not inconsequential amounts on retirement. The numbers doing it and the amounts used surprised me,” he told The New Daily.

“It’s a concerning trend and if people plan to use their super to pay off a mortgage then they are not using it to provide retirement income.”

He said this could result in the government being faced with a dilemma.

“Given the family home is untaxed, the increased use of concessionally-taxed superannuation to pay off homes in retirement would not be what the government intended,” he said.

That could mean governments would be forced to review both superannuation and housing policy as “both superannuation and the age pension are predicated on high levels of home ownership”.

The HILDA report also showed that both men and women are retiring later with the average age of women retirees reaching 63.8 years in 2015 and men 66.1 years.

Mr Yates said the rise in retirement ages, while partly due to desire to work longer, also had a negative financial driver.

“A lot of people got frightened by the market crash accompanying the financial crisis and decided they need a bigger financial buffer before they retire.”

For 16 years the HILDA survey, run by the University of Melbourne, has polled the same 17,000 Australians.

The report’s author, Professor Roger Wilkins, pointed to the falling home ownership levels among younger people. In 2014, approximately 25 per cent of men and women aged 18 to 39 were home owners, down from nearly 36 per cent in 2002.

Younger people with housing debt saw average mortgages up from $169,000 to $336,500 between 2002 and 2014.

That reality plus rising prices meaning people have to save longer before buying “could result in the superannuation system being thwarted in its aim to provide retirement income by rises in outstanding mortgage debt”, Professor Wilkins told The New Daily.

The overlooked victims of Australia’s runaway property market

From The New Daily.

Young people may have been hit hard by Melbourne and Sydney’s steep property prices, but experts warn that soaring home values are creating victims at all levels of the market, including people who already own homes.

This week’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report showed that home ownership among 18 to 39-year-olds has fallen from 36 per cent in 2002 to a new low of 25 per cent.

On top of that, between 2002 to 2014, the average mortgage debt of young homeowners increased by 99 per cent in real terms, from $169,000 to $337,000.

But there are other victims overlooked in a national housing debate that focusses on the young.

An inflated property market has wide-ranging repercussions for many demographics, according to Greville Pabst, executive chair of WBP Property Group and a judge on The Block TV show.

“Socially, you’re going to see a very big divide between the haves and the have nots,” Mr Pabst said.

Here are a few examples of the potentially overlooked casualties of Australia’s real estate boom.


It’s no surprise that many renters don’t fare well in expensive property markets, as the demand for rentals pushes up prices.

The latest Department of Health and Human Services’ rental affordability data revealed that a mere 5.7 per cent of new lettings were deemed affordable over the March quarter — the lowest since the report was first compiled in March 2000.

“Renters face the dilemma of paying off someone else’s mortgage and not building up equity in a property which can be a good form of security and wealth,” Bessie Hassan, property expert at, said.

“There’s greater flexibility with being able to move around but they also don’t have the freedom to renovate or upgrade the property to suit their personal tastes.”


Unfortunately for singles, the dream of home ownership is even tougher because they need to service a mortgage on one income.

“This can greatly affect the areas or regions where you can afford to live and your ability to manage the ongoing costs such as repairs and maintenance,” Ms Hassan said.

“Singles may need to reside within fringe suburbs as they’re priced out of inner-city suburbs.”

In particular, pregnant single women may have to leave the workforce or pull back to part-time or casual work, which can impact their ability to afford a home, Ms Hassan said.

“Single borrowers may also be seen as higher-risk borrowers [by banks] due to a lack of dual income.”


While owner-occupiers have fewer problems than renters or singles, an inflated property market often leaves families or couples beached in the one spot for many years.

Upgrading to a bigger home becomes too expensive once agent fees, marketing costs and stamp duty are taken into account.

“If you’re selling a property for $1 million, then you are looking at paying at least $80,000 in stamp duty and associated costs,” property lecturer Peter Koulizos said.

“That’s money that could be spent on renovation instead. So people are staying put more; there’s less mobility.”

Greville Pabst at WBP Property Group added that many Generation Xers had secured mortgages at very low interest rates, but were also highly leveraged.

“Interest rates will go up and some of these people may be in trouble.”


While many pensioners own their own homes, they’re often saddled with expensive land tax bills.

“As the value of their property goes up so does their tax bill, which they struggle to pay because they’re asset rich, but cash poor,” Mr Pabst said.

Furthermore, according to the HILDA report, young adults are living with their parents longer: 60 per cent of men aged 22 to 25 and 48 per cent of women the same age were living with their parents in 2015, compared with 43 per cent and 27 per cent respectively in 2001.

Parents may own their own home, but it could be full of their adult children. Or they may find themselves digging into their retirement savings to help their kids onto the ladder.

“Those that can afford it are now helping their children buy a home,” Mr Pabst said.

“That is the great divide that is only going to increase.”

Our second-class citizens – kids who can’t leave home

From The New Daily.

This year’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey results confirm, with damning certainty, how Australia is spiralling back into inequality based around property ownership.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, one of the most comprehensive studies of social and economic trends, shows the proportion of 18 to 39-year-olds owning their own home slumping from 36 per cent in 2002 to just 25 per cent today.

Within that figure, couples with dependent children went from an ownership rate of 55.5 per cent 15 years ago, to just 38.6 per cent.

That’s important, because it is parents passing wealth down to their children that are once again starting to define who gets into property and who doesn’t – we’re going back to a 1950s-style class division.

All in the numbers

To see how, consider the way assets grow in value over time, and the relationship between inflation-adjusted (‘real’) growth, and nominal growth.

Imagine a couple buying a home in Brisbane in 2002 at the age of 25. When they hit 40 this year, two things will have happened.

Firstly, for any given interest rate, the real value of their monthly mortgage payments will be lower thanks to the eroding effect of inflation.

Assuming their income had only just kept pace with inflation, their repayments after 15 years would be, for any given interest rate, only 70 per cent as large a chunk of their pay packets.

Secondly, the home would be worth about 1.9 times as much in inflation-adjusted terms, or 2.7 times as much in nominal dollars, based on ABS data.

Those left behind

By contrast, a 25-year-old couple who decided not to buy in 2002, but who at the age of 40 decided to do so today, faces two financial nasties – they’ll need a much larger deposit; and they’ll have to hand over a much larger chunk of their income each month if they want to pay off the home by retirement.

If this example were set in the 1980s and 1990s, you might say “it’s their own stupid fault”.

And you’d probably be right – the barriers to entering the housing market were much lower then.

Today, however, the HILDA numbers describe a housing market in which many young Australians have no choice about getting into the market.

Since the turn of the millennium, house prices across Australia have roughly doubled in inflation-adjusted terms, and a deposit for a home can’t just be ‘scraped together’ by maxing-out a few credit cards and smashing the piggy bank.

So young Australians have three options: stay at home for years more and save madly for a deposit; move out and rent, saving even more madly for a deposit; or receive a windfall gift or loan from the ‘bank of Mum and Dad’.

The HILDA data shows more young Aussies opting for the first option. In 2001, 43 per cent of men and 27 per cent of women aged 22 to 25 lived with their parents, but those numbers have now ballooned to 60 per cent for men and 48 per cent for women.

The old progression of moving out and renting, scraping together a deposit, and then moving into property ownership is almost impossible for many – unless the ‘bank of Mum and Dad’ is able to help.

A compounding problem

When Mum and Dad are unable to help with a deposit, the effects on wealth equality begin to compound.

Today’s 25-year-olds who do not have family money behind them will take much longer to get into the market, meaning they’ll have smaller capital gains behind them when their own children come asking for help.

Buying a home has never been a universal right, but as detailed last week, it’s something that at its peak was available to 71.4 per cent of Australian households.

As that number slides lower – or tumbles lower for younger groups – it’s time to face facts.

The new class divide in Australia is between those who have generous property-owning parents, and those who do not.