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High-immigration lobbyist blames high immigration for housing crisis on April Fools Day.

In yet another bizarre twist in the property development lobby's constant pushing for high immigration, one of its strongest advocates over the past decade, Ron Silberberg, Managing Director of the Housing Industry Association (HIA) appears to have come out blaming immigration for the housing crisis which his own organisation's advocacy for higher immigration helped to create.

"There has been an uncontrolled expansion of the immigration program," Dr Silberberg told a Senate committee in Canberra, according to an AAP sourced article, "Immigration blamed for housing crisis," in The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday April 1, 07:01PM.

Analysts of Australia's rampant population-growth-lobbying movement were today scratching their heads and sending round emails asking if this was an April Fools joke.

Mr Ilan Goldman, housing analyst, wrote to housing sociologist, Sheila Newman, late Tuesday night:

"Is it an April Fools joke, or is it for real? If it is real, I need you to analyse it "

Goldman felt that the article was probably real news, since the same news had appeared at the following addresses: http://news.smh.com.au/immigration-blamed-for-housing-crisis/20080401-22wx.html; at Yahoo News: http://au.news.yahoo.com/060622/2/zhm9.html, and at NineMSN; http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=59380

The Sydney Morning Herald went on to report that "Housing Industry Association (HIA) managing director Ron Silberberg blamed the shortage of private rental accommodation on net immigration he estimated at 250,000 people a year." Silberberg had also described Australia's immigration program expansion as "uncontrolled", and as having increased at a massive pace, blaming pressure on private rental housing for these huge, uncontrolled increases.

Most surprisingly, Silberberg admitted that the federal government could use the immigration program as a way to diminish the housing crisis problem. He said that immigration was substantially impacting on the housing crisis.

"It's a very significant influence on the demand for housing and accommodation."

Silberberg was critical of the Immigration Department, which he thought did not have a "proper understanding of labour market forecasting." He complained of a shortage of building trade workers in Australia, claiming that only around 800 immigrants in a rough total of 250,000 per annum, were suitably skilled in housing construction.

There was apparently some discussion about 'releasing' more land (a term which means clearing bushland or rezoning agricultural land, entailing heavy carbon emissions). The Planning Institute of Australia advanced the opinion that releasing more land needed to be balanced by a construction sector able to meet the demand.

In a more familiar pitch, Planning Institute National President, Neil Savery said, "Addressing undersupply is a critical issue if we are to ensure that we are able to adequately and affordably house our communities as Australia continues to develop."

Population growth lobby analysts see this kind of remark as an indication that the property lobby is about to ask for an increase in immigration numbers of building tradesmen. They say that the term 'undersupply' (referring to land) could just as well be replaced with the term 'oversupply' (referring to population). This is a property developer construct which glosses over the real problem, which is that Australia has reached its comfortable limits to growth.

"We're not saying that addressing supply is the panacea to the problem and certainly that the equation in relation to supply isn't simply: `Let's release as much land as we can possibly can on the urban fringe of the city'," Mr Savery was reported to have said.

"It is unlikely that Dr Silberberg or Mr Savery are on the road to Damascus. Leopards rarely change their spots," concluded housing sociologist, Sheila Newman, after a quick review of these remarks.

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ABC Web Site: HIA challenges RBA's economic advising ability

The Housing Industry Association has questioned the ability of economic agencies to advise on how best to tackle the housing affordability problem.
Association director Ron Silberberg has told a federal Parliamentary Committee that agencies like the Reserve Bank have failed to predict triggers for rising house prices in the past.
He told the committee the contribution from economists has not been as robust as it should have been.
"If the so-called experts in our agencies can't explain adequately what has transpired, what possibility have we got that they identify appropriate solutions," he said.
The HIA also says uncontrolled levels of immigration have fuelled Australia's private rental squeeze.
Mr Silberberg told the Committee the pace of immigration to Australia has been massive over the past three years. He says the Federal Government has control of the immigration lever, which impacts on housing availability.
"We estimate that the net permanent and long-term migration flow is now running at about 250,000 a year," he said. "I ask the question, 'do we need an explanation as to why there is pressure on private rental housing?'."

note that The Age, had it as part of another story, and decided that it only warranted a single paragraph (in Bold) and even rolled up the immigration emphasis that Silberberg had in his submussion to the senate inquiry with 2 other reasons.
The Age: Another rate rise averted as ageing feel the pinch
THE housing affordability crisis is casting its shadow longer into Australians' lives. Barely half of people aged 55 to 64 have paid off their homes, and even people in retirement are still paying mortgages, Federal Treasury has revealed.
In Melbourne, the Reserve Bank board voted, as expected, to keep interest rates on hold. But in a statement announcing the decision, Reserve governor Glenn Stevens left open the possibility of another rate rise next month.
In a carefully balanced statement, Mr Stevens said inflation figures later this month were likely to show inflation had risen further outside the Reserve's target of 2% to 3%, but the economy was slowing and "substantial" rate rises in recent months should cut inflation ahead.
"The current monetary policy setting is appropriate for the time being," Mr Stevens said. "The board will continue to evaluate prospects for economic activity and inflation in the light of new information."
Its decision came as:
- Treasury's modelling chief Phil Gallagher told the Senate inquiry into housing affordability that the proportion of people aged 55 to 64 who fully owned their home had shrunk in a decade from 72% to 54% — while those still paying off mortgages had doubled from 13% to 27%.
- Treasury and industry bodies told the inquiry that rising house prices were largely due to the gap between the supply of new houses, now about 150,000 a year, and an underlying demand, which Treasury put at between 180,000 and 190,000.

- Housing Industry Association director Ron Silberberg blamed "uncontrolled immigration", state government taxes and the GST for intensifying the shortage — but added that even if demand for new houses picked up, the industry did not have the skilled workers to build more homes, and many of those who began training dropped out.

- The association estimated that costs imposed by state and federal governments added $124,000 to the cost of a block of land in Sydney, but just $24,000 in Melbourne and $7740 in Adelaide.
The first day of hearings before the Opposition-dominated committee, chaired by Liberal senator Marise Payne, took place with no representations from the Government apart from the occasional question from backbench senator Steve Hutchins.
Treasury's team played a dead bat to questions on anything controversial, but Mr Gallagher gave the committee surprising data showing that older Australians were also increasingly facing heavy mortgage payments.
The Bureau of Statistics' 2005-06 survey of Australians' housing costs found that even among people aged 65 to 74, the proportion of people fully owning their home had dropped from 81% to 75% in a decade.
Of all Australians aged 55 and over, almost 10% by 2005-06 were paying more than 30% of their income in rents or mortgage bills, fitting the conventional definition of "mortgage stress", Mr Gallagher said.
Dr Silberberg told the committee the section 457 visa scheme had been little help to the housing industry, as builders typically could not meet the requirement to guarantee workers a year's employment.

The Australian: Housing crunch blamed on immigration
By Peter Williams and Kate Corbett | April 01, 2008

AN uncontrolled increase in immigration in the past three years has fuelled the housing affordability crisis, home builders say.
Housing Industry Association (HIA) managing director Ron Silberberg today blamed the shortage of private rental accommodation on net immigration he estimated at 250,000 people a year.
"There has been an uncontrolled expansion of the immigration program," Dr Silberberg told a Senate committee in Canberra.
"The pace in which it's increased has been massive over the last three years.
"Do we need an explanation as to why there's pressure on private rental housing?"
He described the immigration program as a Federal Government lever which could be used to address the housing crisis.
Asked if he blamed the squeeze entirely on immigration, Dr Silberberg said its effect was substantial.
"It's a very significant influence on the demand for housing and accommodation."
Dr Silberberg was speaking at the Senate select committee on housing affordability's first day of public hearings.
More than one million Australians are considered to be in housing stress by paying at least 30 per cent of their income on accommodation.
The HIA chief also said the industry suffered from a skills shortage because only a tiny fraction of immigrants had training in residential construction.
Only about 800 of the net figure of 250,000 arrivals had the necessary skills, he said.
"I don't think the department of immigration has a proper understanding of labour market forecasting because that's done by another agency.
"Demand for skilled people and professionals is so tight it's not even worth advertising."
The Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) told the committee that the construction sector's ability to meet demand is just as important as releasing more land.
"Addressing undersupply is a critical issue if we are to ensure that we are able to adequately and affordably house our communities as Australia continues to develop," PIA national president Neil Savery said.
"We're not saying that addressing supply is the panacea to the problem and certainly that the equation in relation to supply isn't simply: `Let's release as much land as we can possibly can on the urban fringe of the city'," he said.
Institute chief executive Diane Jay said releasing more land sounded simpler than it was.
"There's some evidence that even if there were more land immediately available we really don't have the capacity within the construction and development sector to go a lot further in terms of meeting supply," she said.
The group welcomed the Federal Government's planned National Housing Supply Council but said it must produce nationally comparable data on land release as well as new housing statistics.
The hearings will continue in Sydney tomorrow.

Look up this page at the Australian Senate's web site:
Senate Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia
No transcript yet for yesterday's hearing, but it will be worth reading to see the detail of Silberberg's submission.
and today's (2nd April 2008) hearings:
Senate Select Committee on Housing Affordability in Australia Agends 2nd April 2008
Public Hearing:

AGENDA
10.00am NSW Federation of Housing Associations
Mr Adam Farrar
Executive Director
10.45am Morning Tea
11.00am Australian Bankers' Association
Mr Nick Hossak
Director, Prudential and Payments Policy
11.45am Professor Julian Disney
Social Justice Project, University of NSW
12.30pm Lunch
1.30pm

AHURI Sydney Research Centre
University of Sydney
Associate Professor Judy Yates
Dr Nicole Gurran (TBC)

AHURI UNSW-UWS
Professor Bill Randolph
2.45pm Urban Development Institute of Australia, NSW
Mr Ross Blancato, UDIA NSW President
Mr Scott Woodcock, Executive Director
3.30pm Afternoon Tea
3.45pm
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
Mr Andrew Johnson, Director
4.30pm Adjournment

Committee Chair: Senator M. Payne

Perhaps Mr Silberberg has had a change of heart - turned over a new.. tree.
Historically the HIA has been at pains to push for bigger and bigger intakes.
Will be interesting to see how long this 'conversion' lasts.

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