June 13th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Beijing mocks Universal Declaration of Human Rights

EDITORIAL: Recession: end of the beginning ... or beginning of the end?

EUTHANASIA: Dr Death's travelling road show

POPULATION: Billionaire club seeks to curb world's population

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Is Barnaby Joyce a leader in the making?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Why Rudd's emissions trading scheme should be defeated

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Fundamental change is needed, but probably won't happen

GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR: FBI foils new terrorist attack on New York

SRI LANKA: Mass carnage of Tamils in war without witnesses

INDIA: India's Congress alliance's strengthened mandate

CHINA: Growth slump worries Beijing leadership

ASIA-PACIFIC REGION: Japan set to expand its naval capabilities

OBITUARY: Jerzy Zubrzycki MBE CBE AO - A champion of human freedom and dignity

OPINION: Employee share ownership under threat

AS THE WORLD TURNS: The word is out/ Sharia law vs. prairie law

Housing affordability and land prices (letter)

Religious zeal (letter)

Fuddled logic (letter)

Contrarianism? (letter)

CINEMA: 'The Baader Meinhof Complex' - film whitewashes notorious terrorist gang

BOOKS: I AM MELBA: A Biography, by Ann Blainey

BOOKS: AN AWKWARD TRUTH: The Bombing of Darwin, February 1942, by Peter Grose

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Housing affordability and land prices (letter)

by Marc Florio

News Weekly, June 13, 2009

John Young's article, "The forgotten factor: land prices" (News Weekly, May 30, 2009), is spot on in pointing out that land speculation is the fundamental driver of housing unaffordability.

Efforts to provide adequate and affordable housing in Australia fall into three major categories: 1) public housing, 2) rent subsidies for tenants in private dwellings, and 3) subsidised finance for the purchase of private housing (e.g., the first home buyers grant, etc.).

While these methods do assist with affordable housing to some extent, they all have serious limitations. Both government-owned housing and rent subsidies offer only limited security and no opportunity for equity, and when homes are purchased with subsidised finance, they are eventually sold in the open market again and are not generally affordable for the next generation of low-income earners.

The most basic problem with subsidised finance and rent subsidies is that public money flows quickly into the hands of private interests, often in the form of large profits for landlords, developers and speculators. It is not retained for the long-term interests of the community.

There will be no solution to the housing crisis while speculative and absentee land-owners appropriate more from their socially-created value of land than they return to the local community.

A community has a legitimate interest in maintaining continuing access to its land for all of its members, and one way of achieving this is to liberate land from the speculative market via the formation of community land trusts (CLTs).

While these are common in the U.S. and Europe, CLTs are a rarity in Australia, with the latest one in the process of being established in Castlemaine, Victoria. With the formation of a CLT resource centre at the University of Western Sydney, the acceptance of CLTs as a means to providing affordable housing will hopefully accelerate.

Marc Florio,
Keilor East, Vic.

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