Key points
  • More than 40 housing, homelessness, and community service organisations have signed an open letter to government in concern of the rhetoric blaming the housing crisis on immigration
  • Everybody's Home, the letter's coordinator, says such a rhetoric is a distraction from decades of government inaction 
  • It comes on the back of the release of the Federal Government's Migration Strategy

More than 40 organisations have written to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and opposition leader Peter Dutton in concern that the current rhetoric surrounding the housing crisis has unfairly placed blame on migrant communities. 

The letter, coordinated by Everybody's Home, points to SQM research finding asking rents rose more during pandemic-era border closures than in the decade prior.

Signatories include Anglicare Australia, Australian Council of Social Service, Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, and National Shelter

Across the nation, advertised rents were found to have lifted $84 per week between March 2020 and February 2022. 

That’s compared to a $69 per week increase from March 2010 and March 2020.

Many experts and politicians have suggested the housing crisis has been exacerbated by an influx of migration in the wake of the pandemic.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals Australia’s population increased by around 560,000 people in the year to March 2023 – 81% of that growth was due to overseas migration.

The government unveiled its Migration Strategy earlier this month, aiming to reduce net migration over coming years in a bid to ease the strain on the housing market and other areas.

In response, Mr Dutton slammed the strategy, saying it won’t do enough to increase housing supply.

However, Ms Azize argues that placing the blame for the housing crisis on immigration is simply a “distraction”.

“It is nonsense to blame overseas migration as a primary driver of a housing crisis that has been decades in the making,” she said.

“Migrant communities are being scapegoated for Australia’s housing crisis.

“Governments have given handouts to investors, allowed unlimited rent increases, and stopped building homes for the people who need them. 

“That’s why housing is so unfair, so unequal, and so unaffordable.”

Everybody’s Home is calling for a national strategy that would see social housing increased to represent 10% of the nation’s housing stock. 

It is also calling for reforms to capital gains and negative gearing concessions for investors, with revenue raised through such reforms reinvested into social and affordable housing.  

While migration is one piece of the housing undersupply puzzle, PRD chief economist Diaswati Mardiasmo notes it’s not as large a piece as people might assume.

“Migrants do ‘take up’ rental supply, as they need a place to live," Dr Mardiasmo told InfoChoice.

"However this does not necessarily mean they take up all, or even the majority, of rental supply.

“It is under supply that doesn’t match population growth as an overall that is the cause, not under supply that doesn’t match migration.”

Other driving factors of the housing crisis that Dr Mardiasmo points out include ineffective housing strategies and lagging implementation, as well as the high cost and unavailability of construction materials and labour.

Rising interest rates and increasing internal migration – between states, for instance – have also impacted housing supply in a big way.

As have shrinking household sizes, particularly as the make up of Australia’s housing market doesn’t favour the rising number of single-person households.

“A lone household does not have a lot of choice for a one bedroom house, for example,” Dr Mardiasmo said. 

“Limiting migration is not the silver bullet to solving the housing crisis, because that means you are only addressing a small part of the equation.

“There are other types of demand that contribute to the equation, and some have been inflated due to government grants and tax breaks. 

“Population growth can be regulated, but we must be very targeted and considerate in how we do this. At the end of the day we are in deficit of labour. 

“We also have a lot of other trade agreements with various countries - we must be mindful of these too.

“The real solution is supply.

“How can we create more supply, how can we open ourselves to more innovative ways of adding supply.”

The Federal Government is aiming to build an extra 1.2 million homes by 2029.

However, industry experts have warned that a lack of land and labour shortages could hamper construction.

The government has also announced a plan to triple fees facing foreign investors purchasing residential property and double the tax demanded from them if they leave their investment vacant.

Housing Industry Association chief economist Tim Reardon stated that both proposed changes stem from “very common misunderstandings about the shortages of housing in Australia”.

“One is that there is a large volume of vacant homes, the second is that foreign investors are the cause of the housing shortage," he said.

“Since 2015 a range of punitive taxes have been imposed on foreign investors by State and Federal Governments. 

“The consequence of this is that these investors have withdrawn from the Australian market, and this is a key reason why the volume of apartments commencing construction is now almost half of what it was in 2016."

Image by Michael on Unsplash.