Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Housing grants should be tied to other policy agenda

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-02-21

Saw an ad in today’s paper for the federal government’s $21,000 "First Home Owners Boost", and prompting the memory that "boost" can be a slang term for theft or unjustifiable promotion.

If the government is so desperate to continue the housing bubble that is a significant cause of the current financial collapse, then if there were any smarts in Canberra, they’d try and achieve some other desperately needed outcomes for that money that is nothing but welfare to households that have well above median income.

Grants should be conditional on appropriate environmental, urban planning, and per-capita resource considerations, providing a "light touch" version of Locrian and Sumptuary laws of the classical world.

For a first-cut "straw-man" (in geek parlance) version, grants would be slashed if the house didn’t:

  • Meet energy efficient targets
  • Are not at least medium density
  • Meet modesty standards (no marble floors, etc)
  • Meet per-capita floorspace standards

"Wood-man" tweaks could include:

  • Quarantine grant components to allow houses to be made energy-efficient within a year of purchase
  • Relaxing density requirements someone if the family already lives in a rural or very-low density area
  • Relaxing per-capita floorspace constraints if it is reasonable to assume extra people (children or older relatives) are expected within the next couple of years

Personally I’d slash the grant unless the government got some equity in the residence, that could be paid off by the owner at a later date (and/or giving the option of the government buying out a default to become the landlord).

Has anybody got suggestions for bits and pieces that could might move this to "iron-man" or "titanium man" stages?


  • Geek-speak uses "straw man" in the sense of a draft version of a proposal or design, not the "straw man" argument used in rhetoric merely to be knocked down.  The progression may include (using links to the Software Engineering Body of Knowledge):
    • Straw man: very draft, brainstorming stage, too see the general shape of what you want
    • Wood man and/or stone man: holds up reasonably well, but still having rough edges or a bit primitive
    • Iron man: a robust solution
    • Titanium man: bulletproof, which can be complementary ("absolutely nothing can go wrong" for something critical that must not go wrong) or disapproving ("that’s way over the top of what is needed and will cost too much in time or money").

    See also "geek comparatives progression" (broken flaky dodgy fragile brittle solid robust bulletproof armor-plated) where "straw man" roughly corresponds to "fragile", but the current Home Owner Boost scheme is at best "broken", or using the other comparative sequence (monstrosity brain-damage lose crock misfeature kludge hack(n) <a href=”win feature elegance perfection) at best a "lose"

  • "The maestro says nationalise" in the "Free Exchange" blog at "The Economist" which talks about Alan Greenspan (disparagingly) as the "last man left standing" to recognize the problems of the housing bubble.
  • "Sumptuary laws addressing overconsumption – you wish!" (2007-05-22)


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