Originally published in The Guardian on March 16, 2023

House prices are falling but housing unaffordability remains high

The most recent data on the value of dwelling around Australia reveals the prices in most capital cities have fallen over the past year and are likely to keep doing so for some months. But the data also shows that housing affordability remains a long way from repairing the decades of damage.

In his Guardian Australia column, policy director, Greg Jericho, notes that the impact of interest rate rises has definitely caused the housing market to come off the boil. In most capital cities median house prices are now below what they were a year ago. Coming as this does off data suggesting wages are not rising as fast as the Reserve Bank feared, and amid the ructions in the USA financial system after the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, the Reserve Bank certainly has enough reason to not raise rates again.

But while the fall in house prices does help those trying to buy a home, the decrease in affordability is highlighted by the fact that while house prices are mostly below what they were a year ago, they are well above what they were 2 years ago in all capital cities. And those rises have been well above the growth in wages in that time.

Jericho notes that in Sydney for example, wages and house prices from 2003-2013 largely rose in line but over the past decade house prices have surged above wages. Had prices instead continued to rise in line with wages the median house price in Sydney would now be $863,000 rather than $1,270,000.

This disconnect is replicated around the country with house prices being some 60% above what they would have been had they risen along with wages. In Hobart the current median house price of $727,000 is some 133% above the price it would have been had they rinse in line with wages in Tasmania of $297,000.

This disconnect highlights the need for tax reform of the housing market, an increase in supply including increased median density housing, and especially public housing.

And above all we need wages to no longer be left behind.

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