Australia has set a bold ambition to deliver 1.2 million new homes over five years as the Commonwealth and state governments ramp up efforts boost housing supply and address affordability challenges.

At its meeting in Brisbane on Wednesday, National Cabinet agreed to an ambitious target of building 1.2 million homes in well located areas over five years from 1 July 2024.

This is 200,000 more homes over and above the target that was agreed to as part of the National Housing Accord 2022 last year.

To help achieve the target – and to provide assistance for renters – National Cabinet agreed to a package of reforms.

This includes:

  • A $3 billion New Home Bonus that will reward any states and territories who achieve more than their share of the one million homes in suitable locations as targeted under the National Housing Accord. The program aims to incentivise state and territories to undertake the reforms necessary to boost housing supply and increase affordability.
  • A $500 million Housing Support Program that will provide targeted funding on a competitive basis to help state and local governments to kick-start housing supply in well-located areas. This will offer targeted activation programs for initiatives such as connecting essential services, amenities to support local housing development or development of planning capacity.
  • A national planning reform blueprint, which addresses significant planning matters to help ensure that planning systems are able to facilitate new dwelling creation at a level that is required to meet housing demand. This will include updating state, regional, and local strategic plans to reflect housing supply targets; promoting medium and high-density housing in well-located areas close to existing public transport connections, amenities and employment; and streamlining approval pathways; and consideration of the phased introduction of inclusionary zoning.
  • Development of a principles-based, multi-year planning model for migration to improve collaboration with states and territories on migration settings.
  • A range of initiatives to help renters and to strengthen tenant rights. These include moving toward national consistency on matters such as genuine grounds for evictions, limiting rental increases to once per year, banning rental bidding, permitting lease breaks without penalty in instances of domestic or family violence, restricting lease break fees, reasonable minimum rental standards, making rental applications easier and considering better regulation of short-stay accommodation.

But the agreement did not include measures such as rent caps or freezes which are being sought by The Greens in order to get their support for the $10 billion Housing Affordability Future Fund.

Nor was any timeline given on when the initiatives regarding tenant rights will be delivered.

Asked about rent control or freezes, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters that no jurisdiction has argued for these and that these would exacerbate rental market challenges by restricting new rental market supply. (As rental and tenancy laws are set by the states, rent freezes or controls would need to be agreed to by states and territories in order to come into force.)

Instead, he said the consensus was that more supply was needed.

“Delivering more housing supply is a vital part of National Cabinet’s plan to ensure communities thrive as they grow,” he told reporters.

“All governments recognise the best way to ensure that more Australians have a safe and affordable place to call home is to boost housing supply.”

The latest National Cabinet agreement comes as the Albanese Labor Government is struggling to get its flagship $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund through the Senate.

The legislation will see an initial $10 billion deposited into the fund, which the government says would enable construction of an estimated 30,000 new homes over five years.

However, the legislation has stalled in the Senate as both the Coalition and the Australian Greens blocking its passage.

The legislation was recently reintroduced into the House of Representatives.

Both property industry lobby groups and community housing groups have both welcomed the latest National Cabinet agreement.

Property Council of Australia Chief Executive Mike Zorbas welcomed the commitment to strategic and sustainable planning of cities that accounts for population growth and aims to be agile, accountable and coordinated at the state and territory level.

Zorbas said the Property Council has long-championed national competition-style payments for states that succeed at city planning and housing supply performance.

“National Cabinet is tackling our housing supply deficit in a coordinated way for the the first time in a long time. It is taking a big picture approach to housing supply improvements that, if successful, will boost access to housing for all Australians,” Zorbas said.

“The New Home Bonus, the Housing Support Program, the National Planning Reform Blueprint, the Social Housing Accelerator and the rental deal strike a sensible balance in progressing toward affordable new housing supply.”

In a joint statement, meanwhile, community housing groups Community Housing Industry Association and National Shelter said that the package of reforms were a step in the right direction.

The two groups particularly welcomed consideration of inclusionary zoning, the reforms to increase rental rights and the moves to unblock planning reform.

“Inclusionary zoning promises to be a real policy breakthrough,” said Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of CHIA.

“It should ensure that new housing developments include a percentage of social and affordable homes, significantly expanding housing options for people on low and modest incomes. The particularly great thing about it is that it’s not a tax on development – the ‘cost’ is baked into the price paid for the land …”

“… If we are to get the supply we need, kinks in the planning process need to be ironed out to speed up the construction of social and affordable homes. Recognising that councils need resourcing to enable them to respond is also a positive element of this package.”

Emma Greenhalgh, CEO of National Shelter, said the rental reforms are particularly important.

“A nationally consistent limit of one rental increase per year is a long overdue reform, as is a ban on soliciting rent bidding and stronger privacy protections for renters’ personal information,” Greenhalgh said.

“We have come a long way. Six months ago there was no prospect of a national reform push on renters’ rights, but today we have seen solid progress.

“Despite this, rental reform remains unfinished business. We need upper limits on the quantum of rent increases for tenants to provide them with genuine stability and security.”


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