Migrants and house prices – response to HIA from SPA Victoria (AUG)

16 September 2011

Media Releases 2013

Aug 8, 2003

Ron Silberberg of the Housing Institute of Australia said today (8 August 2003) that migrants are being unfairly blamed for high house prices (Migrant bogey blame shift, a statement by HIA’s Managing Director, Ron Silberberg 8 Aug 2003). “This is a bit rich”, said Sheila Newman, Population and Land-use sociologist and President of the Victorian Branch of Sustainable Population Australia. “No-one is blaming migrants but high immigration is driving prices up and the property development and housing industry is well aware of this.”

“Silberberg at the HIA and his developer mates at Apop, (1) such as Bert Dennis, who has his own housing finance company, and the Urban Development Institute of Australia are backed by the banks who enjoy a steady income from mortgages and the major newspaper corporations, which enjoy many benefits from the real estate industry.

Such big business entities run conferences with government to drive up immigration fed population growth. The February 2002 Bracks Population Summit, which aggressively militated for high immigration was organised and sponsored by Apop and Oz Prospect (related organizations dedicated to massive population increase) with the Victorian Government, in conjunction with building materials company, Boral, the Dennis Family Corporation (which has its own housing finance company, several housing factories and declares it is in the business of building suburbs – (2) and the Age, which thrives by housing ads and is owned by Fairfax which has a property dot com. More recently, Bracks and 30 sponsors consisting almost entirely of development and/or finance/bank businesses, were hosted by the Australia-Israeli Chamber of Commerce on 18 July at the Crown Palladium Room in Southbank. (3) Sam Lipski, who featured at both events, gave a 15 minute introduction on the theme of “population growth and development” being the way forward for Australia. Bracks, who heads the developer led push for one million more people in Greater Melbourne, known as “Melbourne 2030” then spoke for about 45 minutes on how Victoria’s ‘successful’ economy was fuelled by immigration and population growth.

Not surprisingly Bracks made no mention of the environment, nor of the increasing amount of unhappy victims of infilling, rezoning and urban open land grabs who are taking complaints to VCAT, or of rising housing unaffordability, private debt and homelessness. Also overlooked was the growing disharmony between speculative regional development and rural water users, and the fact that the Government’s own advisors have warned that if Melbourne’s population grows as the government intends, the city will need to get water from some unknown source in 20 years even if per capita consumption could be cut back to nearly half by making water increasingly expensive.www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/committees/meetings/ECaCD_571_20030616.pdf (4)

On the subject of population growth and wealth, these same government advisers stated that, “Even at a national level, the uncertainty associated with projections of economic growth is high when a timeframe of more than a year or two is considered. The Federal and State budgets project only for the forthcoming year. To say that the same level will continue for even the next five years is highly uncertain.”

They were in fact unable to find any causative link between population growth and economic wealth.

Their definition of economic wealth linked to population growth was where demand rose with population growth but quality of life did not fall. They based a projection for this on continuation of past trends, ignoring the likely impact of radical changes in water distribution and cost of land on social equity and environment. “Given our inability to project economic growth per se, we need to at least tie it to population growth using an assumption that standard of living is unlikely to decline.”

Mr Silberberg, in his press release of 8 August 2003, said that the “link between house price increases and population growth is loose at best. Brisbane’s population has increased at more than double the rate of Sydney’s but its house prices haven’t. Certainly immigration adds to the demand for housing, but it also helps improve the supply of housing through expanding the housing work force.”

Research published by the 2000 APA Conference and elsewhere clearly demonstrated that in Australia land for housing prices rose in cities of high population growth and high immigration (from whatever source) in contrast to price stability in low growth, low immigration cities between 1985 and 2000. See, for instance, “Immigration, Housing and Land Speculation: Comparison of Australia and France”,population.org.au/media/newslet/nl200106.pdf. (5)

HIA avoids addressing the real dynamics of Sydney population change. Immigration pressure is creating a dual impact in Sydney. Inflow of immigrants, especially wealthy immigrants, keeps demand for new housing high. This drives up land prices and the cost of living in general. Sydneysiders cash in on the land price rises and avoid the cost of living rises by selling their houses and moving far away from Sydney. So the turnover in real estate is extremely high and this is linked to the high turnover in population, which is linked to high immigration.

(1) Information from APop website: www.apop.com.au
(2) www.denniscorp.com.au
(3) See www.aicc.org.au
(4) The source of this advice was the Melbourne Environment, Community and Cultural Development Committee in a meeting on Sustainable Water Management Strategy, May 2003, Appendix G.


(5) S. Newman, “Growth Pressure and the Consolidation Mentality: Immigration and the French”, in “Refereed Papers” for the 10th Biennial Conference of the Australian Population Association, Population and Globalisation: Australia in the 21st Century, 28th November to 1st December 2000, Melbourne Australia. Published on CD Rom as part of the Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Conference of the Australian Population Association Melbourne 2000, ISBN 0-9578572-0-9 Also published in S. Newman, “Immigration, Housing and Land Speculation: Comparison of Australia and France”, SPA Newsletter, No. 50, June 2001,population.org.au/media/newslet/nl200106.pdf. and in chapter 8 of The Growth Lobby and its Absence: The Relationship between the Property Development and Housing Industries and Immigration Policy in Australia and France at www.alphalink.com.au/~smnaesp/population,land,biodiversity.htm

Further information:

S. Newman
Victorian Branch
Sustainable Population Australia
Ph: 03 9783 5047

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