Editorial: Housing affordability a most pressing issue

GROUPS of Australians met in two major cities last week to talk about issues that are important in their lives.

They also spoke about politics, politicians and governments.

The focus groups provided a snapshot of how Australians in marginal seats feel about society today. And the news for governments, politicians and the country is not good.

Average Australians feel disconnected from the people who govern them, and you only have to look at the differing priorities of those who govern, and the governed, to see why.

The focus groups in both major cities identified housing affordability as their number one priority.

Younger Australians spoke of the hopelessness they feel about ever being able to afford a home. Older Australians spoke of the despair they feel for their children and younger people in general.

They were fully aware that something has been lost in the chasm that now separates many Australians from the dream of owning their own home, and they worried that the chasm will never be bridged.

They had no confidence that politicians would act, or even understood the issue.

“Politicians don’t seem to feel the same pressures, probably because of their huge salaries and all the other perks,” said one older woman, in a comment that summed up the views of both groups.

In a series of interviews on Monday, federal politicians of both major parties criticised the Coalition’s focus on same-sex marriage and said it stole attention from issues that mattered to ordinary Australians.

But when they listed the issues they thought really mattered to voters, not one identified housing affordability.

The focus groups incorrectly blamed foreign investment and immigration for the spiralling cost of housing which is a worry for major parties.

It is a public mood mined by parties like One Nation.

To its credit, the Victorian government under Dan Andrews has recognised how deep the discontent around housing affordability is in this state and abolished stamp duty for first home buyers on houses up to $600,000.

This is the kind of practical initiative that our federal politicians, particularly the divided Coalition, seem incapable of coming up with.

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