Posted on May 30, 2008

Migrants Pose Threat to Cheaper Housing

Renee Viellaris, Courier Mail (Brisbane), May 29, 2008

The Rudd Government has admitted battlers could be squeezed out of the housing market by its new immigration policy.

A Senate budget estimates hearing was told yesterday that the extra 31,000 permanent skilled migrants would compete with local people for a place to live.

But Immigration Minister Chris Evans played down the issue, saying more skilled migrants would boost the nation’s low housing stocks in the long run.

The revelation is bad news for many Australians who have been squeezed out of housing and rental markets by rising costs and a shortage of properties.

In the lead-up to last year’s election, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd campaigned on delivering more affordable housing.

Migration deputy secretary Peter Hughes said increasing the permanent skilled migration program—which will stand at 133,500 in the next financial year—would reduce inflationary pressures and cut the cost of housing.

But the answer was not good enough for NSW Senator Marise Payne, who asked: “Where are they going to live? We are underbuilding by 30,000 dwellings a year already in this country.”

Senator Evans replied: “They are going to live in the same places that the million people who came in under your government are going to live.

“They may have well made a contribution to the current housing crisis and you’re right to express interest in the public policy issues in how next year’s intake will impact on the problem.”

He said he had spoken within his ministerial counterparts about the problem.

“(Affordable housing is generally) a real problem (and) it’s one of the reasons why housing has been a key focus for this Government,” he said.

“There are huge pressures on housing in this country and one of the things I’m looking to respond to is the Housing Industry Association’s call for the fact they can’t get building tradesmen.

“And one of the things I’ve been pressing the department on is us trying to be responsive in this year’s program.

“For the need to find construction workers and bricklayers, carpenters etc, and make the program meet these shortages in Australia.”

Mr Hughes also downplayed the pressure it would have on the already-stretched market, but said all immigration over the years had impacted on housing. “Newcomers to the country obviously draw on the housing and accommodation stock,” he said.