Home affordability: a Super idea

28th July 2014

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, will introduce legislative changes in the Spring session of parliament to allow first home buyers to access their superannuation savings to pay a house deposit.

Such a scheme successfully operates in Canada, called Home Buyers’ Plan, leading to improved housing affordability.

At a Senate Economics References Committee hearing in Adelaide today, the Inquiry heard from HomeStart Finance (an arm of the South Australian Government) outlining the Canadian scheme.

In Canada up to $25,000 can be accessed for a first home, and it’s made a dramatic difference for housing affordability there.

However, Senator Xenophon will be moving for changes to Superannuation Act 1976 to allow the release to superannuation funds for a first home, with similar safeguards to the Canadian scheme.

In Canada the amount has to be paid back into the super fund within 15 years.

“With more and more Australians finding it difficult to break into home ownership, adopting the Canadian scheme would make a difference to many thousands of Australians each year,” Nick said.

“As HomeStart Finance said today, there’s something strange about being able to access your super fund if you are about to default on your housing loan, but you can’t access it to put a deposit on a home in the first place.”

Housing affordability in Australia has fallen for the past three decades, as house prices outstrip income growth.

An annual affordability survey by Demographia this year found Australia had the second-worst housing affordability in the world, behind Hong Kong.

All 39 Australian housing markets surveyed were “seriously” or “severely” unaffordable, defined as having average house prices more than four times average income.

Senator Xenophon gave credit to his state colleague, John Darley MLC, who has been a long-time advocate for releasing super funds for home buyers.