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Wednesday, 17 November 1976


Mr BRAITHWAITE (Dawson) - Much has been said in this chamber in the last few months by both Government and Opposition members about the building and housing industry. This is an industry that normally first feels the tightness of a recession and first responds to the surge of a boom. Whilst the former statement on recession no doubt will remain the same, it is questionable whether we can expect the industry to respond as vigorously to boom conditions in the future as it has in the past. The answer does not lie in the readiness of the developers and builders to get up and participate, but in the specific need for building constructions by consumers at the time when the economy shows signs of recovery. In one area, the building industry, we are losing consumer support to an extent that it may never return. That is in the residential type of construction. Costs of building, cost of interest, unrealistic demands for higher standards on construction and a housing grant that alienates lower income earners, has caused and will continue to contribute to a slackening demand for residential construction.

To take these points one at a time, let us commence with costs. The cost of the average residence in Mackay where I live has substantially increased over the past 3 years to approximately $28,000 today. Granted, wages, which bear heavily in the increase in these costs, have similarly inflated. The present average wage base, while it can more than sustain the outgoings of the normal household and living expenditures, also has to withstand the pressures of increasing taxes. The balance of this base wage is not then sufficiently strong to support or service a normal loan commitment of the present day value of an average house of $20,000. Those people on a low wage base are committed permanently to being flat dwellers. Secondly, the cost of interest currently averaging 1 1V4 per cent on a daily basis is set so high on an average loan of $20,000 that prospects of servicing a loan and interest at that rate are outside the resources of all but those who have job security and a higher than average weekly wage. Again, those on the lower wage are doubly cursed to being tenement and flat dwellers for their lifetime.

There is a problem which creates additional and sometimes unnecessary costs, where building standards are raised by a succession of authorities from local government, State governments and departmental authorities. These building standards are set to insure against acts of God- lire, flood, cyclone. They are set to provide maximum security on health standards, electrical wiring and for other regulations such as fire control. This inevitably requires additional costs in construction, double checking to ensure that standards are maintained and inspection fees, which all add up to a greater home cost but do not decrease the cost of fire brigade services, insurance premiums and rates and taxes. Is there not a limit or a degree of risk which we must ourselves accept? Do we have to provide in the construction of a house with a 50-year life, against a once in 500 years flood, a cyclone blast with windspeeds of 150 miles per hour or some other act of God as equally devastating and as unpredictable? If we do, we give our constructions a loading cost of a further 15 per cent to 20 per cent which deeper digs the grave of those present unfortunates without a home. Alternatively, as a society, we set ourselves the task through increasing costs to outwit all acts of God, but at what a community cost.

Lastly, I refer to the home savings grant scheme. I do not subscribe to handouts to those people who have no chance either because of their own self imposed deficiencies or inadequacies, of servicing the balancing debt structure on a home. But the scheme could be altered to allow those who have the will, desire and determination to own their own home to be encouraged, in spite of a lower income, to participate through a formula of a percentage of saving over a 3 year period and not a monetary amount. It can be proved that a family with an income of less than $150 after tax, after meeting essential living expenses, rental on a present residence, providing for children, has insufficient left for savings, particularly to the degree necessary to qualify for the maximum grant. Those people who are unlikely through their past savings to supplement their income should be permitted to receive a percentage of income and not a fixed amount.







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