CRITICS say the government didn't do enough to drive down sky-high house prices in last night's Budget and the changes it did make may make a bad situation worse.
After years of the electorate crying out for help to make buying a first home easier, the Coalition has announced a suite of measures designed to improve housing affordability.
Chief among them is a scheme that allow Australians to put extra money into their superannuation funds that can be withdrawn later to pay for a home deposit.
It's essentially a way for Australians to supercharge their savings by paying less tax.
From July 1, Australians will be able to make extra contributions to their super via salary sacrifice up to a maximum of $15,000 a year and $30,000 in total.
They can then withdraw that money and any associated interest at a lower tax rate of 15 per cent for use on a home deposit.
"If a family or an individual had a roof over their head that they can rely on, then all of life's other challenges become more manageable," Treasurer Scott Morrison said during his Budget speech.
But critics say the $30,000 cap is peanuts and doesn't come close to the amount needed for an average house deposit.
"Shorter Scomo: 'Hey young folk, now it will only take you 200 yrs to save for a house deposit instead of 240 yrs. You're welcome!'" tweeted advertising expert Dee Madigan, who has worked on election campaigns for the Labor Party.
30k in total when the average syd house needs a 100k deposit??? Wtf??? #budget17— Dee Madigan (@deemadigan) May 9, 2017
While some argue the government didn't go far enough, economists say the First Home Super Savers Scheme could actually flood the market with more money and push prices up.
Respected economist Saul Eslake told Lateline it would not help with the main driver of lower property prices - increased housing supply.
"We've got super-for-housing lite, in other words people will be subsidised to have bigger deposits and hence be able to take out larger mortgages than they would do otherwise," he told the ABC program.
He hoped not many would take the offer up "because the more that do, the greater would be the upward pressure on housing prices".
"We've got 50 years of history to support the proposition that anything that allows people to spend more on housing than they otherwise would - which is what this measure will do if it works - ultimately results in more expensive houses, not in a greater proportion of the population owning houses."
However, the government has not introduced the scheme in isolation.
It has promised other measures designed to increase housing supply, such as reducing some tax breaks for people who own more than one property, halving the number of new developments that can be bought by foreign investors and offering an incentive to encourage Baby Boomers to downsize.
However, the government declined to touch the lucrative negative gearing and capital gains tax incentives blamed for locking young people out of the housing market.
Mr Eslake said the changes announced in the Budget "won't make a huge difference" to affordability.
"The things that the government could do if it wanted to on the capital gains tax discount they're not doing, on negative gearing they're not doing, apart from stopping people taking taxpayer-subsidised holidays to go and visit their negatively geared properties," he told Lateline.
Tax expert Greg Travers agreed the measures did not amount to a "real fix".
"While the government feels it has taken a scalpel to the housing affordability crisis, the reality is it's more of a feather," said Mr Travers, of William Buck Chartered Accountants.
"They have danced around the edges and failed to address the big issues."
Mr Travers said, at best, a couple using the scheme could save an extra $12,000 over three years, which amounted to about 1.5 per cent of the median Sydney and Melbourne property price.
Housing affordability advocates First Home Buyers Australia welcomed the scheme, saying first home buyers earning more than $18,200 per year would be better off because they could save a deposit faster.
However, the organisation's co-founder, Taj Singh, was "extremely disappointed" the government didn't touch negative gearing or capital gains tax.
"Unless there are some tighter controls to investor lending or decreases to generous investor tax incentives, investors will continue to buy up the housing supply and dominate the property market," he said.
The Property Council of Australia was more positive, saying the scheme would "help hundreds of thousands of Australians save for a deposit for their first home".
"The Budget is a serious attempt at tackling Australia's housing affordability problems," chief executive Ken Morrison said.
"The focus on improving housing supply, keeping rental growth low and closing the deposit gap are all welcome, but the initiatives targeting foreigners will damage Australia's reputation and will do nothing to help housing affordability."
He argued the scheme would not inflate house prices.
The general idea of linking super to housing has been a source of fierce debate in Canberra for years.
Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey floated the concept of allowing Aussies to dip into their super with some enthusiasm in the twilight of their leadership of the Liberal Party in 2015.
During the height of tensions with then prime minister, communications minister Malcolm Turnbull bagged the concept as a "thoroughly bad idea".
"I think this is a big supply-side issue and you're not going to make housing more affordable by stoking up demand," Mr Turnbull said.
"And, of course, this is not what the super system was designed for."
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who was integral in the formation of the 2017-18 Budget, is also on the record rubbishing the concept of allowing people to use their super to buy property.
"Increasing the amount of money going into real estate by facilitating access to super savings pre-retirement will not improve housing affordability," Mr Cormann told news.com.au in 2014.
"It would increase demand for housing and, all other things being equal, would actually drive up house prices by more. That is, it would reduce housing affordability, including for first home buyers."
However, the scheme being discussed back in 2014-15 was significantly different to the one announced last night.
While the idea never really went beyond thought bubble stage, the discussion was around a scheme similar to Canada's Home Buyers' Plan, which allows residents to withdraw existing super funds up to $25,000 in a year and pay it back within 15 years.
Mr Morrison's scheme is much more modest. It leaves compulsory super contributions untouched and prevents funds from being raided to the detriment of Aussies' retirement nest eggs.
Labor, meanwhile, maintains that superannuation should not be used for housing.
"If you want to deal with housing affordability, you need to start with negative gearing and capital gains," shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers said.
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