Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has released an eight-point plan to make housing more affordable.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has released an eight-point plan to make housing more affordable. LUKAS COCH

Housing plan to help the needy, punish the greedy

LABOR leader Bill Shorten has promised to build 55,000 new homes and punish investors who hoard empty properties if his party wins government.

The Opposition is diving head-first into the housing affordability debate by releasing its own eight-point plan before the Turnbull government can define its proposals in next month's Budget.

Under the Labor plan, investors whose properties lie empty would be penalised in all major cities and self-managed super funds would be banned from directly borrowing for real estate purchases.

More than 55,000 new homes would also be built over three years, boosting employment by 25,000 new jobs a year.

In Sydney to unveil Labor's plan to tackle Australia's housing affordability crisis, Mr Shorten said the government couldn't be "fair dinkum” about helping first home buyers unless it was willing to reform negative gearing and address foreign buyers and self-managed superannuation fund borrowers.

"The Liberal Party is putting housing affordability for young Australians in the too-hard basket,” he said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has promised the government's May 9 Budget will address Australia's crippling housing affordability problems, but the detail has been thin.

Labor's pre-emptive announcement is in part aimed at highlighting the government's difficulties with the issue.

The government has had internal strife over the policy, in particular a rejected proposal to unlock superannuation savings to buy a first home.

Labor will argue Abbott- Turnbull governments have ignored warnings to act on unfair and distortionary housing tax concessions - negative gearing - and on the risks associated with increased borrowing by superannuation funds.

Labor would limit the tax benefits from negative gearing and capital gains - neither move publicly backed by the Coalition government - but would match the Treasurer's plan for a bond aggregator to fund community housing.

Foreign housing investors would face increased fees and penalties for breaches.

There would also be increased spending on accommodation for the homeless, moves to improve the National Affordable Housing Agreement, and revival of the National Housing Supply Council and the portfolio of housing minister.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann labelled the Labor plan "reckless, ideological and counter-productive”.

"They think a one-size- fits-all approach to housing affordability is the way to go, and clearly it isn't,” he told Sky News.

"Taking a sledgehammer to these things ... could have a very negative impact on other parts of the market.”