Housing Affordability in the 50’s & 60’s

Housing affordability has been a problem for families and politicians for many decades. In past articles I have written about migrating to Australia and living in Migrant camps. Since European colonisation of Australia there has always been a problem in securing a home. Whether it has been securing land or building materials settlers have had problems.

After the end of WW2 the main problems were the return of servicemen and women from overseas marrying and building families and the influx of migrants and refugees from war damaged Europe.

To cope with these problems the various State and Federal Governments instituted policies that saw the creation of large housing estates and assistance to couples wanting to purchase homes. The State Governments through their Housing Commissions subdivided large tracts of land and created low cost housing estates where they then rented the homes to tenants. The estates may have started off as small subdivisions and as time went on larger tracts were developed such as Dundas Valley, Green Valley and Mt. Druitt.

The Commonwealth Government through the “War Service Homes” Branch of the then Repatriation Department also built housing estates at Cabramatta, Cromer (Dee Why) and elsewhere. The difference between the State and Federal governments was that the War Service Homes were built to be sold to returned servicemen who were provided with low cost loans by the Department to assist in the purchase. War Service Home loans were also provided to assist in the purchase of existing homes (not on War Service housing estates) and also to build extensions or renovations on existing homes. An added benefit was that through War Service Homes your home was also insured with low cost insurance cover. Later the Government also created a Housing Loan Insurance Corporation which became part of the Department of Housing. This and the War Service Homes loan portfolio were later sold to a bank in the 1970s.

During the 1963 Federal election campaign the then Prime Minister, Robert Gordon Menzies, announced that the Federal Government , if re-elected, would establish a Commonwealth Department of Housing, which would not only administer the War Service Homes scheme but would also administer the newly proposed “Home Savings Grant” scheme. This scheme was to encourage young couples under the age of 35 years to save monies in an approved savings account with a bank or building society towards the purchase of a home.

This announcement saw me secure a position in the Public Service in the newly created Department of Housing in 1964. I was placed in the War Service Homes section in the Grace Building at 77 York St Sydney, until the Home Savings Grant section was established across the road in “King York House”.

The Home Savings Grant worked like this. The government would provide a grant of $1 for every $3 saved up to a maximum grant of $500. The grant would be payable on your first home only. You would have needed to be married and you would have had to have savings over at least three years prior to the date of the contract of sale of your first home. The grant would only be given once to a couple to assist in the purchase of a home. Back in 1964 the average price of home in Sydney would have been around $15000. The home must have been valued at no more than $15000. The department would send out an assessor to value the home if, for instance, you were purchasing from a relative such as your parents to ensure that the price you were paying for the home was fair and reasonable.

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Housing Affordability in the 50’s & 60’s
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Housing affordability has been a problem for families and politicians for many decades.
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