His Coalition parties didn’t see good housing as a right, but nor did they ditch the Commonwealth–State Housing Agreement.
Just before his 1954 election policy speech, two elections later, Menzies told the state premiers that they could sell Housing Commission houses on terms over forty-five years.
When prices are in the doldrums, as at present, owner-occupiers get grumpy but prospective home purchasers – egged on by first homebuyer grants so popular with political parties facing an election – are out in force inspecting new estates on the urban fringes or apartments nearer the city centres.
In recent decades about a third of our dwellings have been owned outright, a third have mortgages attached, and a third are rented from private or, less commonly, public landlords. Just after the second world war well over half the population of Sydney and Melbourne were tenants, and overcrowding in most cities was rife.
There is a hint in this account of Troy’s own battles with Treasury when he was deputy head of the Department for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam government.
He was involved in devising an urban and regional budget to examine the locational impact of Commonwealth government spending, an initiative that Treasury regarded as an affront.
During boom times, owner-occupiers rejoice in the rising value of their asset, though some worry that the younger generation will never be able to afford a home.
Governments have paid more and more attention to first homebuyer grant schemes – a quick economic boost – and means-tested rent allowances, while all the hard issues, including the way housing is or isn’t taxed, are deftly avoided.
Meanwhile health and education attracted a growing share of the budget, and that trend has continued in the GST era.
analyses seven decades of public housing policies, debates and outcomes.
The result is a book that manages to keep the Commonwealth’s intervention in the foreground while taking each of the states seriously – an unusual achievement in public policy writing in Australia.