A Sydney-based think tank has called for whoever wins government at the Federal Election to roll out a “real long-term strategy” to make housing more plentiful and affordable.

Committee for Sydney has published a paper on the issue, with deputy chief executive Ehssan Veiszadeh calling for federal and state governments to make changes around housing policy.

Housing costs are the largest economic problem facing Australian cities, with property prices rising more than 20% nationally in the past 12 months.

“Without a major change to housing price dynamics, Australia is sleepwalking into a permanent class divide, where only those who inherit wealth are able to obtain the security of home ownership,” the paper says.

It blames policy settings at a national level, while state governments and development approval processes have also been implicated for a chronic undersupply of housing.

The paper notes that only 30% of houses in NSW are approved via a complying development pathway, a planning and approval process involving a fast-tracked assessment by a council or an accredited certifier, compared to 70% in Queensland.

The CEOs of developer Mirvac and materials supplier Boral have called planning the top issue in housing, commenting the government’s main priority should be improving supply and planning approvals.

The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation has warned lagging approvals were contributing to a surge in house prices and that the supply pipeline may fall behind demand as Australia’s international borders reopen.