Foreign Correspondent: May 9

Hamish Macdonald presents “The Home Show,” a special report on Foreign Correspondent this week, which looks at how we make housing more affordable.

He investigates what other countries are trying and what ideas we might pinch from them.

This airs at the earlier time of 9pm.

Is Australia out of ideas, or political guts, when it comes to making housing affordable? Perhaps Budget night will spring a bold and creative stroke – but to date, with prices in our big cities spiking by close to 19 per cent in a year, there’s been little to inspire.

So Foreign Correspondent’s reporters fan out abroad – to London, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Tokyo and New York – in search of some solutions.

Some ideas come out of left field, brainwaves of entrepreneurial activists whose faith in governments has long expired.

“Forget the politicians, forget them! They’re not going to help us. They can’t, OK? End of story,” declares Kim Loudrrup, a developer of cheap, sea-floating apartments in Copenhagen.

Other ideas need government. Witness Co-op City, New York’s socialistic experiment that may be the world’s biggest housing development, with 15,000 apartments catering for up to 50,000 middle and lower income workers and seniors. As Conor Duffy reports, it’s a mini-government all by itself.

The Australian Government has been scouring London for ideas. That’s where Hamish Macdonald finds Australian Alex Bell, beneficiary of a popular scheme that helps young buyers stump up a decent deposit – in the face of ever-rising prices. Now she owns her place 100 per cent. “It’s worked out very well for me,” she says.

In Barcelona, locals are furious at being priced out of the market by hordes of cashed-up foreigners renting through sites like Airbnb. Now authorities are cracking down. Eric Campbell joins the city’s chic inspectors who knock door to door, unnerving tourist tenants and busting illegal landlords who can cop fines of up to $100,000. “At least 50 per cent of the apartments are illegal now,” Campbell is told.

In Copenhagen they’ve let their imaginations loose. How about an entire village made from shipping containers? Or carbon neutral apartments where you grow your own food? Or a unique hybrid scheme where you buy equity at rock bottom price, then rent cheaply afterwards, right in the heart of the city? “It’s the best of two worlds,” says one happy owner.

Tokyo’s property bubble burst, but now it has found a blunt instrument to boost housing supply and keep prices in check. As Rachel Mealey reports, it’s all about zoning – and it might be confronting solution to many Australians.

There is no silver bullet for all our housing problems. But as Foreign Correspondent’s The Home Show demonstrates, creative approaches – even niche ideas like tiny houses, canal boats and shipping containers, combined with a dose of brave public policy – can make a real difference.

Tuesday May 9 on ABC.

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