Budget positive on housing affordability, but Australia still needs a plan and minister: Compass Housing

Budget positive on housing affordability, but Australia still needs a plan and minister: Compass Housing
Budget positive on housing affordability, but Australia still needs a plan and minister: Compass Housing

The budget announcements to deal with the housing affordability crisis are positive but a national housing plan and minister should be in place to tackle the problem, according to a senior industry executive. 

Compass Housing’s manager of research David Adamson said the budget contained a range of positive measures for first home buyers to private rental to affordable housing and homelessness but still lacked “a cohesive plan with measurable outcomes”.  

Hunter and Central Coast-based Compass Housing is a community housing provider.

“In particular, we are pleased to see confirmation of a new bond aggregator to make it easier for community housing providers to obtain finance to deliver additional housing,” Adamson said.

“We are pleased to see reformed National Housing and Homelessness Agreements which will require state governments to hit targets for additional social and affordable housing and will encourage them to transfer additional stock to the not-for-profit sector,” he said. 

But he said Compass was disappointed there is still no integrated plan to solve Australia’s housing crisis.

“The budget contained some worthwhile initiatives but it remains to be seen if these measures will be enough to address the current housing shortfall.”

“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.” 

Compass had stated the case for a national plan and minister in pre-budget talks. 

Determining funding for the right housing measures would be much easier if the government had a national housing plan and a minister for housing to ensure targets are met, its managing director Greg Budworth had said ahead of the budget.

Budworth, who is also co-chair of the United Nations Habitat programme’s civil society partner constituent group, said budgets should be developed to meet strategic and operational plans. 

He said it “makes no sense that Australia does not have a national plan nor a minister responsible for something as fundamental as housing”.

Budworth said he agreed with Treasurer 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. 

The government announced a new National Housing and Homelessness agreement with the states and territories to ensure a supply of housing for those most in need. The agreement includes $375 million of government funding for housing for the homeless and those needing crisis accommodation. 

In another step, starting next year, private investors would be offered incentives to invest in affordable housing, with a 60% discount on capital gains if they provide their property at below-market rent and to tenants on low-to-moderate incomes managed by a registered community housing provider. 

“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,” Budworth said.

He suggested that 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.”

Budworth said 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.

Budworth said 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.” 

He said 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.”

Tags: 
Federal Budget Affordable Housing

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