Former Prime Minister, John Howard, said encouraging migrants to move to rural or regional areas could ease housing price pressure. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Former Prime Minister, John Howard, said encouraging migrants to move to rural or regional areas could ease housing price pressure. Picture: Glenn Hampson

How to ease housing cost pressures

AUSTRALIA'S housing price pressure could be eased if new migrants were encouraged to settle in rural or regional centres, according to former Prime Minister John Howard.

While visiting the Gold Coast, Mr Howard said doing that wouldn't change things immediately but it would take the pressure off.

"I think the government is quite sensibly looking at ways at encouraging new migrants to settle in rural area or regional areas and the less populous capital cities,'' he said.

"Over time it would take some pressure off, but all of these things happen over time.''

Mr Howard was on the Gold Coast to open the Ray White and Loan Market, Connect 2018 conference, which was attended by more than 2500 agents and brokers.

He said it was harder now for people to buy their first property than it was in his generation.

"I am 79 so it was easier for me,'' he said.

"Although interest rates were higher then, much higher, we have never know lower interest rates than we have at the present time. If you are buying a house that's an advantage, if you are living on your savings and you are not a carefree investor it is bit of a disadvantage.''

Mr Howard said the biggest problem with the cost of housing was that over the years the supply of land had not kept pace with demand and there have been "absurd restrictions'' on the release of some land around some of the capital cities.

"I think in some parts of the country the level of immigration is probably putting pressure on the housing market, but in other parts of the country it is not the case.

"It varies, it depends where you live, if you live in South Australia or Western Australia they want more migrants.''

He encouraged those wanting to buy their first home to keep saving and said he expected for some to buy it would mean a move out of the big cities.

A relative of his had just done this, leaving Sydney and moving to Currumbin on the Gold Coast.

"Currumbin is cheaper than the Sutherland Shire of Sydney, much cheaper,'' he said.

Mr Howard, who served in parliament for more than 33 years, said there were some common characteristics between leading a political party and being in business.

"The most important element in leadership to achieve success was that he or she had to believe in something and have strong beliefs and strong values - be it an army, a football team or an enterprise," he said.

"So often I hear that 'he's not a bad bloke but I don't like what he stands for' so always let your business employees know what you believe in.

"Leaders must have a clear set of values and that is absolutely fundamental.''

Mr Howard said it was important leaders developed a strong relationship with the public and the people who worked for them.

"Accept that you're going to make mistakes and the most important thing is to get the big things right.

"I took a few decisions in my time that were not popular and I know that the most unpopular thing I did was to commit the forces to military operations in Iraq.

"It's still unpopular today but my instinct was that it was the right thing and an important thing to do.

"That is one of the most difficult parts of leadership - to get the balance right between listening and leading."


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