Don’t blame migration for crisis: Greens

The Greens’ spokesman for housing says he does not believe migration is the primary cause of the crisis gripping the country. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Max Mason-Hubers

The Greens say migration should not be blamed for the crisis gripping the country, despite the Reserve Bank governor saying it was putting pressure on the housing market.

Michele Bullock on Tuesday said new migrants had “added to demand” and “pressure” in the housing market, but at the same time migration had contributed to labour supply.

It followed the government’s own expert housing supply and affordability council last week citing the “resumption of migration at pace” as one of the key factors that made the housing shortfall “more acute”.

But Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather, who on Thursday reiterated his calls for a nationally co-ordinated rent freeze and ongoing caps, said he did not believe migration was the “primary cause of the housing crisis”.

Greens housing and homeless spokesman Max Chandler Mather said he did not believe migration was the primary cause of the crisis gripping the country. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

He pointed instead to the “tens of billions of dollars” the government doled out to property investors, a lack of rent caps and chronic underinvestment in public housing.

“I suppose I get frustrated with this because to be perfectly frank, even if Australia’s migration was brought down to net-zero as it was during Covid, that did not solve the housing crisis,” Mr Chandler-Mather said.

In the year to September, Australia’s net overseas migration reached an estimated 518,000.

Building approvals, a leading indicator of Australia’s residential construction pipeline, meanwhile fell to just under 163,000 in the year to March 2024.

Australia is experiencing a housing supply shortfall. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Max Mason-Hubers

Over the coming years, the Albanese government is forecasting an annual migration growth rate of 370,000 people as the post-Covid movement stabilises.

Meanwhile, the report found Labor’s “suitably ambitious” target of building 1.2m homes over the coming five years would not be met.

Council chair Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said there were a combination of factors that had led to the significant shortfall.

She said “deep-seated” issues with insufficient supply had become more acute due to the spike in migration, namely “rising interest rates, skills shortages, elevated construction company insolvencies, weak consumer confidence and cost inflation”.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has hinted next week’s federal budget will feature housing policies in a bid to deal with the crisis.

The government says housing will be a ‘primary focus’ of next week’s budget. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

On Thursday, Mr Chandler-Mather said Australia needed migration and did not want to see migrants being “demonised” and blamed for the crisis.

“In the past Australia’s had high rates of migration, and it hasn’t been a problem because governments have invested in building government homes,” he said.

Mr Chandler-Mather said Australia’s housing system, which allowed people to treat homes as a “lucrative financial asset” had led to a large number of vacant homes across the country, despite record low vacancy rates.

About 10 per cent of homes were unoccupied on census night in 2021, although many of those can be explained away by short term factors.

He said banks were “far bigger culprits” than migrants.