Infrastructure and housing plan needed before budget initiatives: Greg Budworth

Infrastructure and housing plan needed before budget initiatives: Greg Budworth
Infrastructure and housing plan needed before budget initiatives: Greg Budworth

GUEST OBSERVER

Determining funding for the right housing measures in the upcoming Federal Budget (May 9) would be much easier if the Government had a national housing plan and a Minister for Housing according to the managing director of a leading community housing provider and housing commentator.

Budgets should be developed to meet strategic and operational plans.  It makes no sense that Australia does not have a national plan nor a Minister responsible for something as fundamental as housing.

Housing, including social and affordable housing, needs to be viewed as part of Australia’s social and economic infrastructure and integrated with other infrastructure planning. He agreed with the treasurer, The Hon Scott Morrison, that there is no silver bullet to the housing crisis but says with rising social housing waiting lists, high capital city house prices and an increasing number of working people experiencing housing stress, action is long overdue.  

An effective plan will only be realised if the Commonwealth Government recognises that housing is a fundamental human right and the responsibility of the national Government and a national Minister, not just the states and territories.

The Government’s national co-ordination and responsibility must include direct investment in social and affordable housing.

There are less public housing dwellings now than last decade despite around 200,000 people on public and social housing waiting lists and a general acceptance that Australia has a shortfall of between 200,000 and 400,000 dwellings.

Australia was in a similar situation in 1945s when the national Government took action in conjunction with the States.

Back then there was a need for austerity but there was also acknowledgement that workers needed housing and that constructing housing would stimulate the economy and get people working.

With the current downturn in manufacturing and mining we have many workers for whom constructing housing is a realistic use of their skills; another example of housing’s integration with social infrastructure.

This way, more social and affordable housing becomes possible on the back of economic infrastructure investment and job creation rather than as welfare subsidy.

If we had another “Affordable Housing Commission” type policy response the housing built could eventually sold by Government, as it was previously.

One example of possible integration of housing and other infrastructure planning was high speed rail links. He said such infrastructure is already being proposed and would create new commuter towns between those capital cities, taking pressure of capital city housing demand and boosting regional Australia’s economy.

 A rising tide can lift all ships and makes the provision of affordable housing and housing subsidies more sustainable.

A number of housing and community organisations, economists, academics and other experts have done considerable work to help the Government to create a national plan.

Where are Australia’s long term plans for infrastructure and housing? It is time for such plans rather than one off political cycle centric planning and initiatives.

You can budget for a plan.

Greg Budworth is a managing director of Compass Housing group and co-chair of the United Nations Habitat program’s civil society partner constituent group. he can be contacted here.

Tags: 
Housing Affordability Federal Budget

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