Affordable Housing in Parlous State - Andrews
16 September 2014 at 9:26 am
Federal Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews claims affordable housing in Australia is in a parlous state and has expressed his concerns over a ‘lack of transparency’.
Opening the National Homelessness Conference in the Gold Coast recently, Andrews said a lack of affordable housing was creating more homeless people in Australia.
“(There’s) the issue of transparency – or to be more precise lack thereof,” Andrews said.
“The Commonwealth drops $1.3 billion per year into the NAHA pot with very little knowledge of what it’s getting for that money.
“Because this funding isn’t specifically linked to programmes or outcomes, we have no way of knowing how much bang the Commonwealth is getting for its housing and homelessness buck.
“So we need to revisit our approach to housing and homelessness policies and programmes.”
He added that there is no quick solution to rising problem of homelessness in Australia, with affordable housing in a precarious state.
“As I have stated previously, we want to look at what improvements can be made to more effectively respond to homelessness issues, including how to improve housing supply and improve affordability,” Andrews said.
“Affordable housing in Australia is in a parlous state.”
Andrews added that a growing demand for public housing was compounding the issue.
“(Public) housing – once the safety net for those unable to find affordable housing in the private sector – has long since stopped keeping up with demand,” he said.
“Almost 160,000 households were on public waiting lists at the end of June last year.The simple fact is that housing supply is not keeping pace with housing demand.
“And because not enough homes are being built throughout Australia, the price impacts are felt throughout the market, from the most upscale neighbourhoods in our capital cities to the affordable housing sector.”
But he said that identifying the problem and finding a solution were two very different things.
“Having said that, this issue is a difficult one for the Commonwealth,” he said.
“We do not have the direct role in the delivery of housing services.
“In our system of federated government that is the sole province of the states and territories.”
According to Homelessness Australia, who hosted the conference, there are currently more than 105,000 homeless people in Australia.
Andrews said that the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) was not doing what it was supposed to.
“The NAHA has built into it objectives and strategies to grow the supply of homes across the whole market,” he said.
“Quite frankly, it has simply failed to deliver.
“The Commonwealth provides around $6 billion a year through our various agreements and Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
“But with real estate prices going higher and higher CRA is buying less and less.”
He said two recent reviews had recommended making Commonwealth Rent Assistance available for public housing and introducing market based rents.
“As a consequence I am currently working with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer about a specific review of housing and homelessness,” he said.
“I expect the review will, among other things, examine the operation of the National Rental Affordability Scheme to ascertain if it meets its original objective and address concerns about delays in delivery and administrative red-tape as well as consider future homelessness funding arrangements.
“We are also looking at the housing review in light of the White Paper on Reform of the Federation which will be looking at housing and homelessness in an effort to clarify the roles and responsibilities of all levels of government.
“Most of all, what we need to achieve collectively is a coordinated response to homelessness.”
The Council for Homeless Persons agreed that the sector would like more transparency between the roles of State and Federal Governments to make sure that they are doing as much as they can to build more houses.
CHP Spokesperson Sarah Toohey, who was at the Conference where Kevin Andrews spoke, said housing affordability has really transformed the way homeless agencies work.
She said she felt the Minister’s issues around transparency were more to do with issues of State and Federal funding.
She said Government funding has dropped by $500million a year since 1996.
“Government’s still need to hold up their end of the bargain and provide the money,” she said.