By Max Chandler-Mather, Member for Griffith


So much oxygen in Australia’s housing debate is spent on one great lie: that private property developers want housing to be more affordable. Labor and their friends in the property industry claim that developers would build more if only councils approved developments faster and we handed over more public land.

But what we know in reality is this: what private developers want to do is to make as much money as possible. That means doing everything they can to drive up the price of housing, land and rents. 

Recently I announced the Greens first policy initiative for the next federal election: a public property developer that would see the federal government build homes and sell and rent them for below market prices helping renters and first home buyers. 

The public property developer would build 610,000 good quality homes over the next decade, and sell and rent them for a big discount. The public property developer will save a renter on average $5200 a year on their rent, and first home buyer $260,000 on the price of a home, by cutting out the profit margin and building good quality homes for people, the way governments used to. 

The public property developer would sit within a revived, dedicated Federal Department of Housing called the Federal Department of Sustainable Cities, Development and Housing. 

It will ensure that people’s right to a good quality public home is put ahead of developer profits. The public developer would sell the homes at just over the cost of construction to any first home buyer, while rents would be capped at 25% of household income.

So a single mum earning the min wage, moving into a two bedroom unit built by the public developer would pay $220 a week in rent - compared to $561 for an equivalent private rental in Brisbane. A new teacher would pay $390 for the same rental. 

Of these homes, 30% would be available to purchase and 70% would be available to rent. Unlike traditional public housing, the homes would be available to any renter or first home buyer, with 20% of the rentals allocated towards the bottom 20% of earners.

The allocation would prioritise those with connection to the local area, including if they have children enrolled in local schools, work and support services connections, or if they are First Nations peoples. 

In this way teachers will be living next door to pensioners. Doctors next door to hospitality workers. A nurse next door to a cleaner. Exactly the sort of diverse and welcoming communities we should be fostering.  This universality has copped some criticism, but think of it this way. 

As a society we have decided that health and education are essentials for people to live a good life, so we provide a public option for people to access them.

But imagine if Australia only had private schools and hospitals, and they could charge as much as they want for health and education. What do we think would happen to the price of healthcare and education? Well that’s what is happening with housing in Australia right now - and this public developer would change that. The Greens believe a roof over your head is just as essential as healthcare and education. 

The developer would prioritise good quality medium density developments, working with the new Federal Department to ensure the developments are integrated with local public transport, health and education infrastructure.

In creating this plan we’ve been inspired by the design principles of innovative projects like Nightingale in Melbourne. Design in these publicly built homes could include incorporating rooftop gardens, 8 star energy rating, and other design principles that save on construction costs, like removing basement carparks where developments are adjacent to public and active transport. These will be homes people really want to live in.

This huge and transformative plan would cost the budget $27.9 billion over the decade. By way of comparison the Federal Government spent $27 billion in rental deductions for property investors this year alone. 

This plan is entirely possible. But what it requires is political will. But right now we have a Labor Party where 75% of its politicians own investment properties, led by a property investor Prime Minister who is refusing to scrap tax handouts for property investors, while relying almost entirely on private property developers to fix a crisis they profit from. 

Labor’s plan to tackle the housing crisis is to rely on profit-hungry developers to build expensive homes no one can afford, and give billions of dollars in tax handouts to property investors, which deny millions of renters the chance to buy a home. 

For decades now, governments from both major parties have left the supply of housing to private developers, and they have catastrophically failed, making massive profits while driving up the cost of housing by deliberately restricting supply, sitting on vacant homes and blocks of land approved for development. 

And here’s the thing. We will never stop the crazy growth in house prices while the private development industry holds their monopoly over the supply of housing. While governments rely on private property developers, we will never fix the housing crisis.

It’s clear there is broad public support for this plan, and I’m really looking forward to fighting for this policy at the federal election, alongside our other housing initiatives like freezing and capping rent increases, and phasing out negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.

Solutions like these have been implemented around the world, and there is no reason why we can’t do the same in Australia.