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Politicians' crocodile tears won't solve the housing crisis - Firstlinks newsletter

Graham Hand  |  30 Sep 2021Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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All in one week. All on one subject. All buying into the same problem. Let's do a roll call. The International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Council of Financial Regulators (CFR). The Treasurer. The Governor and Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank (RBA). The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). The CEOs of ANZ and CBA ... enough abbreviations and acronyms to make us acrimonious.

What are they all fussing about? Suddenly, they've realised rapidly-rising house prices might cause financial instability, generational inequity, mortgage stress and who knows ... social unrest?

And because when you don't know what to do, you call an inquiry, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has asked the Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue to report on "the contribution of tax and regulation on housing affordability and supply". While it's not clear how it will discover anything not known to many previous inquiries, it keeps the problem bubbling along. Action is finally coming in the form of prudential controls, and we explore the steps that can be taken to cool a rampant market. Why is it taking so long?

Leading economist Saul Eslake asserts his strong views on housing affordability and the pampering to homeowners with policies that encourage house inflation. He says:

"For all the crocodile tears which politicians of all persuasions routinely shed about the difficulties facing those wishing to get their first foot on the property ladder, deep down they know there are far more people who already own at least one property than there are who don’t, but who would like to."

Shane Oliver of AMP Capital and I recently appeared on Saturday Extra on Radio National, and Shane said:

“I think it’s grossly unfair … We can’t organise our property market in a way that makes it affordable for younger people without massive amounts of debt. This is a major social problem. The longer we leave it, it will lead to rising discontent and we’ve seen what that leads to in the US.”

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On to investing subjects ...

This week's guest interview is with Jacob Mitchell, Founder of Antipodes in 2015 after 14 years at Platinum. What big lesson would he give his 20-year-old self, and what trends and companies does he like?

Two papers on the need for caution in assuming the great market performance of the last decade will be repeated. Joseph Davis warns investors to prepare for a decade of returns below historical averages. And Miles Staude shows data from a survey of 32,000 investors in 32 countries where expected returns are extrapolating from the recent past, which is highly unlikely over the next five to seven years. What is more realistic?

When Jon Kalkman distilled the franking credit debate into a basic principle, that large refunds were due to low rates of tax in the super system, it begged the follow up question ... so are the low super tax rates fair? This is the issue that people criticising franking should focus on.

Last week, before the market worried about tapering and potential rate rises, the jitters were caused by potential defaults by Chinese giant property developer, Evergrande. Andrew Parsons manages a global property trust and he has been checking around his contacts for the likely impact. In a link to our earlier pieces, he also notes China and the world are struggling with housing affordability issues.

The article on the age pension assets test was a blockbuster, generating over 30,000 views, and even the survey results was opened over 10,000 times. The survey itself attracted 3,500 responses, thanks for your participation. We thought a few comments, too long to include here, were worth highlighting as adding to the debate.

In the latest edition of the podcastWealth of Experience with Peter Warnes, we discuss moves to control house prices, the debate on the age pension assets test, cash-up super funds chasing long-term assets and the full interview with Jacob Mitchell.

This week's white paper comes from Capital Group detailing 10 themes likely to drive opportunities in emerging markets in the next 10 years.

Finally, a footnote to our article on the requirement for super funds to provide a retirement income strategy, which at the time was intended to apply to SMSFs as well as large funds. The Retirement Income Covenant Exposure Draft issued this week removes the need for SMSFs to comply.

is the editorial director of Morningstar Australia.

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