First Home Saver Accounts: another Labor failure on housing affordability

Last night’s revelation in Senate Estimates that just 24,000 people have registered for Labor’s First Home Saver Accounts - despite the former housing minister boasting that 730,000 would be opened over four years – is another glaring example of Labor’s failure on housing affordability.

Senator Payne said the figure provided by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA) for the first two years of the scheme, represented just 6.6 per cent of the forecast demand.

“This is a pathetic result for a program that was announced with much fanfare by the then minister Tanya Plibersek and Treasurer Wayne Swan in their media release of 1 October 2008,” Senator Payne said.

“The dismal take-up rate shows Australians are rightly sceptical of the Rudd-Gillard Government’s well-intentioned but poorly managed programs to help them manage the cost of living.”

Senator Payne said the excuses given by Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness, Senator Mark Arbib during estimates, did not stand up to scrutiny.

“Senator Arbib again used the all-purpose global financial crisis excuse for yet another policy failure,” Senator Payne said.

“It is common knowledge that consumers and homebuyers increased their savings during the GFC, so logically homebuyers should have flocked to banks and credit unions to open one of these accounts.

“Senator Arbib also said some homebuyers chose to use the extended first homebuyer’s grant instead of the First Home Saver Accounts, as if the two were mutually exclusive.

“Anyone who has applied for a home loan knows that virtually all lending institutions do not accept the home buyer’s grant as a deposit and require some evidence of genuine saving.

“Labor is all over the place on housing. If this is the result of policies introduced when there was a full-time housing minister, we can only despair at the thought of how policy is being managed now that housing has been carved up between three different ministers and two departments.”