Australia is set to receive its biggest investment in social and affordable housing in more than a decade as the Albanese Government finally secured the Greens support for its signature housing reform package.
On Monday, Labor received support from the Australian Greens Party for the package of legislation which includes 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.
A key part of the legislative package involves creation of the $10 billion Housing Affordability Future Fund (HAFF), which will create an ongoing pipeline of funding from that will be used to deliver social and affordable housing.
According to the Government, returns from the fund will help to deliver its commitment of 30,000 new social and affordable homes in its first five years. This includes 4,000 homes for women and children who are impacted by family and domestic violence and older women who are at risk of homelessness.
Returns from the fund will also be spent on repair and maintenance of indigenous housing ($200 million over the first five years), crisis and transitional housing options for women and children impacted by family violence and older women who are at risk of homelessness ($100 million over the first five years) and new housing for veterans who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness ($30 million over the first five years).
The package of legislation will also:
- establishment of a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council as an independent statutory advisory body; and
- change the name of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation to Housing Australia and streamline its functions.
Whilst the package of legislation was introduced in February, its passage has remained stuck in the Senate after The Greens withheld their support.
In exchange for their support, The Greens had hoped to secure more money for social and affordable housing than was offered in the original package and a guaranteed minimum amount of annual investment in social and affordable housing.
The Greens had also hoped to secure national rent controls and a national freeze on rents.
In an effort to secure The Greens’ support, Labor had previously directly invested $2 billion in upfront money into a Social Housing Accelerator to fund work by the states either build new social homes or refurbish existing social housing stock.
The Government had also agreed that a minimum of $500 million would be spent on social and affordable housing through the fund each year. This contrasts with when it first announced the fund and announced that up to $500 million would be spent each year depending on fund investment performance.
It finally secured The Greens support after agreeing to spend an additional $1 billion directly on public and community housing in the current financial year.
Speaking before reporters on Monday, Greens Leader Adam Bandt confirmed that his party would now support the Bill when voted on in Parliament this week.
This means that the Government has secured sufficient crossbench support for the vote to pass.
“With $3 billion being spent this year on public and community housing directly out of government revenue, the Greens are in a position to support the Government’s housing legislation,” Bandt told reporters.
“And we are prepared, subject to the Senate, to pass it through the Senate this week.”
Bandt told reporters the The Greens would continue to push for rent freezes and rent caps notwithstanding that these were no longer a condition of his party’s support for the new fund.
In a statement, Albanese said the reform package would deliver important benefits for Australians.
“This will mean more homes for key workers, more affordable homes for Australian renters, and more homes for those most in need,” he said.
“The Housing Australia Future Fund is backed by numerous stakeholders, including housing experts, community housing providers, and every state and territory Housing Minister.”
Building industry lobby groups welcomed the Greens’ support for the legislation.
“The combination of the Housing Future Fund, the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, and Housing Australia embeds housing as a core infrastructure priority for the Federal Government,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said.
“Master Builders thanks the Greens, Senator Jacqui Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell and David Pocock who have come out to support the passing of the HAFF.
“The cooperation seen across all levels of government to prioritise tackling the housing crisis is a relief to many doing it tough.
“Whether it is social and community housing, rental properties, or owner-occupiers, the common constraint is supply.
“The Housing Australia Future Fund legislation is a vital piece in the housing puzzle by encouraging investment in the social and community housing sector.
“Passing this legislation is imperative to delivering the National Housing Accord target of 1.2 million new, well-located homes in the next five years.
“Master Builders acknowledges the tireless efforts of Minister Collins in ensuring this legislation passes and thanks her for the ongoing collaboration with the industry.”
Community housing and homelessness advocacy groups agree.
In a joint statement, Community Housing Industry Association, National Shelter, Homelessness Australia and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Housing Association (NATSIHA) ‘strongly welcomed the agreement to pass the legislation.
“The passage of these laws is critically important,” Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of Community Housing Industry Association said.
“This is the first step to easing the housing crisis and expanding the right type of housing supply, so that people on low and modest incomes have genuine housing options.
“We thank the Government, the Greens, and the crossbench in both houses for their focus and determination to give more Australians the housing security and certainty they need.”
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