Australia needs a national plan to address a growing crisis in housing affordability, a government inquiry has been told.

In its submission to the Senate Inquiry into Affordable Housing, Mission Australia called on governments at all levels to beef up social housing investment, remove planning and regulatory barriers to new housing construction, undertake major urban renewal projects in areas of run-down social housing and unlock private financing with targeted government support.

The organisation’s spokesperson, Martin Thomas, also called for a governments to work together to create a national long-term housing affordability plan.

“People across the country are struggling to afford the cost of putting a roof over their head, and in the worst hotspots it’s reaching crisis point,” Thomas said, adding that the nation had more than 220,000 people on public housing waiting lists across the country and that there was a ‘gap’ of 553,000 dwellings for low income renters nationwide.

“A comprehensive solution from all levels of government, business, and the community sector is needed to address these housing affordability challenges and deliver more affordable housing so all Australians can afford a place to call home.”

In its submission, Mission Australia said its snapshot of housing and homelessness in Australia indicated that the nation’s hotspots for mortgage stress (as opposed to rental stress) are spread between wealthy and disadvantaged areas and include the Botany, Canterbury, Merrylands-Guildford and Bankstown. Mandurah in Western Australia is also a hotspot along with Sandgate and Strathpine in northern Brisbane.

Rental stress hotspots, meanwhile, include Sandgate on the north coast of Brisbane, Tweed Valley in Northern NSW, Auburn in western Sydney, and Melbourne City.

The call echoes recent long-term projections from the Housing Industry Association, which show the nation may have to lift current long-run average home building levels by as much as 30,000 per annum in order to meet long term housing requirements.

Thomas said going forward, the aging population will create a greater need for low-cost housing as new groups of ‘at-risk’ people such as older women with limited retirement savings.

“One thing is clear; we cannot afford to allow these high rates of housing stress to continue,” he said. “We must address the lack of supply of affordable housing and provide support for the homeless to break the cycle.”

In its submission, Mission Australia argued that governments should:

  • Continue to invest in affordable housing at both the federal and state levels
  • Continue to support the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) and expand the program over time
  • Improve the planning and regulatory environment, including by examining the impact of developer costs and land release policies
  • Continue to support the policy of states transfer existing stock to Community Housing Providers (CHP) where CHPs are able to provide improved services for tenants and leverage assets to generate new stock, where viable.
  • Consider major urban renewal projects in areas where there are concentrations of run-down social housing
  • Unlock private financing with targeted government support through new instruments like social benefit bonds
  • Maximise government expenditure through the use of institutional investments, with development of both a debt and equity products providing a means to secure private sector capital for affordable housing and funding for construction being split between state and local governments and private investors, with the Commonwealth providing a low-risk guarantee to support this activity
  • Develop a long-term national affordable housing plan, including a commitment to at least current funding levels and housing related tax reform to support further investment in light of the growing need.