Contributed from New South Wales
Unions covering teachers, police and other emergency and those working in other emergency services, have taken on the issue of housing affordability.
They find that many of their members are struggling to put a roof over one’s head provide for family.
Many union members do not qualify for public housing or other forms on non-privately owned properties, which go under the banner of social housing. The result is that a growing body of working Australians are being pushed into the urban fringes, where they miss out on many important services and must often commute long distances to work. This impacts on quality of life issues.
The big problem is the lack of affordable housing stock, in a market characterized by a bubble that has sent both mortgage repayments and rents through the roof.
Some unions have consequently begun to look at ways in which they can help their members.
For instance, real estate investors have suggested that people should follow the example of those living in US states like Texas and instead look at foreclosed homes in their area.
Foreclosed properties can often be found at a more affordable price than similar real estate investment opportunities and therefore completing a foreclosure search on websites like Auction.com can be a lucrative way to discover properties that people might not have initially considered purchasing.
Other ideas have been floated too, for example, early talks have begun in New South Wales, between the Australian Teachers Union in this state (NSW Teachers Federation) and First State Super and Teachers Mutual Bank, aimed at accessing suitable housing in the areas where teachers work. It was announced at the union’s 4 July conference by state general secretary General Secretary John Dixon.
The initiative has encouraged other unions to look at doing something similar.
However, pursuing affordable housing is not supported by the New South Wales Industrial Commission, not by the Australian Fair Work Commission, which have imposed a narrow band of matters on which unions and business can agree. Unions face the need pursue creative means by which to move ahead.
Taking on affordable housing is an important step, especially if it catches on and becomes a national campaign involving all public sector unions and expanding to other unions and sections of the workforce.
Means of financing is there, in the form of superannuation funds. After all, the money going into them comes from the wages of workers. Even the employer contribution does, because it is the outcome of direct wages trade-offs. There is no reason why this money should not be put to work for those to whom the the money belong.
Up to now, the money in these superannuation funds has been at the disposal of major employers, to be used as a source of back up capital loans or as means to acquire shares in other companies.