More featuring Viv Forbes» , Homelessness»

by Viv Forbes, first published in Business Queensland, September 1990
(The author is currently active as chairman of The Carbon Sense Coalition)

Those who drive forever on the road to hell must surely get there.

For over two decades, governments from both sides and at all levels have kept the housing industry on the road to homelessness. More people can now see the park benches at the end of this road. Changing speed on the same road will not help — what is needed is a swift U-turn in housing policies.

Few industries have had more interference from politicians than housing. Local, state and federal governments have enlisted expensive mercenary armies of bureaucrats, clerks, planners, officials, consultants, experts, committees and task forces whose mission is to plan, zone, regulate, investigate, inspect, prohibit, condemn, tax, subsidise, licence, register, encourage and discourage the housing industry.

Almost none of these people build houses. Instead, they have produced rental bond boards, fair rent tribunals, residential tenancy acts, flat registration fees, development levies, tenancy tribunals, gazumping laws, land banks, home owner grants, miles of unnecessary rat walls, house removal bonds, builder registration boards, planning schemes, environmental controls, building permits, demolition permits, land taxes, bed taxes, green levies, differential rating schemes, ministerial rezoning, rent control, foreign investment control, interest rate ceilings (and floors), federal grants, state grants, capital gains tax, prescribed payments tax, on-off negative gearing, heritage legislation which prohibits demolition of buildings which appeal to the bureaucrats and resumption powers which allow them to demolish buildings which get in their way. Aren’t we lucky we live in a free country?

Each year sees the emergence of more problems caused by previous government interference. So each election produces a crop of new promises whose goal is to buy votes from disgruntled electors. Luckily, most promises are promptly forgotten once the votes are harvested, but there are always a couple of well-meaning zealots who insist on accelerating down the road to homelessness. And to divert attention and spread the blame, we have our regular enquiries into housing, culminating in the fatuous “Housing Summit” which did not produce any houses.

It was appropriate for governments to organise “The Year of the Homeless” — government interference has created more homeless than cyclone Tracey and the Charleville flood combined.

The problem starts at the land development stage where the maze of regulations and the ponderous decision making process delays every constructive activity. For most building projects, the paperwork takes longer than the construction. And to receive the blessing of the building bureaucrats, everyone must conform to rigid and boringly uniform standards that an increasing number of homeless Australians do not value or cannot afford. Moreover, the officious insistence on minimum sizes for housing blocks has force-fed urban sprawl and increased the cost of water, roads, sewerage, power, transport and land for all home owners.

Should the poor home buyer get to the building stage and need finance, he finds that the money well has run dry. If he had the time to investigate the reason, he would find that other committees of bureaucrats had already stolen community savings to build cultural monuments, pay bureaucrats, cover the losses of their “business” activities or make generous donations to foreigners. He may also find that the Treasurer (who already has a nice home or two) has decided that high interest rates are needed to attract hot funds from overseas to prop up an increasingly valueless currency.

Should he be so lucky as to get his house plans and his finance approved, our homeless one is forced to use only the high-cost builders and lawyers who are licenced by the government.

Should he decide to buy an existing home, he has to find thousands of dollars in stamp duties for which no recognisable service is received.

(Public profiteers in the land tax and stamp duty offices see rising property costs, not as a problem for the homeless, but as a source of windfall profits for them.)

And it is no use for our homeless regulation refugees to try to rent a home. There are battalions of bureaucrats ensuring that few rental properties reach the market. The unfortunate landlord is hit with a bevy of taxes, rates, fees and inspectors and is also forced to contend with an avalanche of hostile legislation designed to “assist tenants”. The poor returns, the biased legislation and the loss of control of his property has convinced many landlords to quit the business. Since when are tenants helped by harassing landlords out of the business?

Governments have also reduced the number of home builders, particularly of low cost homes, by enforcing restrictive licensing laws, condoning union harassment, discouraging sub-contracting, making welfare more attractive than work and driving down profits with unfair competition from subsidised public land and housing development.

Those with plenty of money and those who already have a home are not greatly affected by the high costs, unnecessary delays and utopian standards enforced on our housing industry. For the poor and homeless, however, their own home is just a mirage which, for most of them, moves further out of reach with each government initiative.

The road to homelessness is paved by politicians. We must tell them that more laws, more regulations, more officials and more taxes do not produce more houses — they produce less. We must also insist on speedy sale of their huge portfolios of public land and housing which are increasingly left idle or utilised by people who are far from needy (At least one Senator and one MLA, both on plush salaries, have been revealed as living in subsidised Housing Commission houses.)

In the long run, everyone in the housing industry benefits from a stable, predictable, equitable and minimal framework of laws and regulations within which they can operate and plan with confidence. These laws should not attempt to impose the costly standards of pampered politicians and tenured officials on people who have other priorities. They should be limited to providing consistent protection of the rights of all, be they the property rights of landlords, the contract rights of builders and home buyers, or the lease rights of tenants.

Complex red tape, excessive taxation, discriminatory laws or legislative instability harm everyone, especially the homeless.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. The Road to Homelessness
  2. Our homeless regulation refugees
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