Four housing and homelessness advocacy bodies across Australia have joined forces to call for the Senate to pass the Government’s package of social and affordable housing reforms including its new $10 billion housing fund.

In a joint statement, the Community Housing Industry Association, National Shelter, Homelessness Australia and the National Aboriginal and Torress Strait Islander Housing Association have called on the Senate to pass the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023, the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council Bill 2023 and the Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill 2023.

In a joint statement, the  organisations said the importance of the reforms should not be underestimated.

“Existing policy settings have led us to where we are today,” Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of Community Housing Australia said.

“We need to get moving on building a better supply of social and affordable housing and these three pieces of legislation are important building blocks. We can strengthen them and provide additional resources in the years ahead but we need to get moving now.”

Kate Colvin, CEO of Homelessness Australia, said the laws would help form the start of a housing reset in Australia.

“The package of laws before the Parliament will not be enough to fix the housing crisis alone, but they are critical to kick-starting a longer-term response,” Colvin said.

“We need the planning, co-ordination and financing in place to make sure this is the last housing crisis we face and for that reason, it’s important that the Housing Australia Future Fund, Housing Australia and other key bodies get going now.”

Set to form the centerpiece of the Commonwealth Government’s strategy to work with states/territories, local government and industry to address housing affordability challenges, the reforms will create a new $10 billon fund from which returns on investment over the first five years are expected to fund construction of 30,000 social and affordable homes and provide a further $330 million for other critical housing needs.

The reforms will also establish a new body known as the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council to advise on ways to improve housing affordability and supply across the housing spectrum.

With the Opposition opposing the reforms, however, the Government needs the support of the Greens and at least two independents to pass the legislation – which it hopes to do before Parliament rises for the last time prior to the budget at the end of the week.

The Greens have called for a range of amendments including a tenfold increase in the annual amount to be invested, immediate action to assist low income renters (rent controls and a doubling of the rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance), a minimum of $1 billion over five years to be spent on indigenous housing and a limit on fund recipients to ensure that private developers are not able to profit from public housing funding.

Independent Senators David Pocock and Lidia Thorpe have also called for changes including increases in the amount to be invested.

In calling for the measures to be passed, the four organisations said the situation regarding housing and rental affordability in Australia is dire.

Pointing to research from the UNSW City Futures Research Centre, the organisations say that around 640,000 Australian households are currently in housing stress – a number which is expected to hit one million by 2041.

In the past year alone, the National Shelter Rental Affordability Index showed a 14 percent decline in rental affordability – with steeper increases being recorded for lower income households.

Whilst housing and homeless bodies generally support the fund, some have called for greater ambition.

Maiy Azize, spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, said the Housing Australia Future Fund needed to be scaled up to match the scale of the crisis.

“Australia is facing a housing crisis that has never been more dire. Rents are surging, record numbers of Australians are in severe rental stress, and more and more people are being plunged into homelessness,” she said.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to build up social housing. Australians in need expect the Government to take action.

“If the Government is serious about tackling this crisis, it should be scaling up the Housing Australia Future Fund to match the scale of the crisis we face. That means topping up its funding every year and uncapping the funding for social housing. That would get more badly needed dollars into housing and more homes built.

“We also need to make sure that this Fund actually delivers homes to the people who need them. That means making a binding commitment to build social homes, not just setting a target.

“Everybody’s Home is calling on the Government to strengthen this Fund to make sure it delivers for Australians – and work with the parliament to pass it.”

Building industry lobby groups have called for the reforms to be passed.

Jocelyne Martin, Deputy Managing Director – Policy and Industry at Housing Industry Association, said the bill is a critical part of the government’s commitment to build one million homes over the next five years.

“The passage of the Housing Australia’s Future Fund Bill 2023’ is an important step toward addressing the ongoing decline of housing affordability,” Martin said.

“All sides of politics should view the passing of the Housing Australia’s Future Fund Bill 2023 as the first step in a long journey to addressing affordability.”


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