Morrison Acknowledges Housing Stress
23 July 2015 at 11:35 am
Housing failures are at the centre of most social service challenges in Australia, the Federal Social Service Minister Scott Morrison warned in a speech in Melbourne on Wednesday.
The Minister said a lack of housing stock and affordability is a sign that federation "is failing us", in a speech on Positive Welfare and Compassionate Conservatism to the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne.
“You will find housing failures at the centre of most social service challenges. It is either a cause or consequence,” he said.
“We are spending more than $10 billion a year and making very little progress. The Commonwealth accounts for around 60 per cent of this expenditure and in 2014/15 this equates to $6.3 billion.
“There are few issues more important to ensuring the welfare of Australians than housing. Housing provides the stability and certainty needed for individuals and families to deal with the many challenges they face – unemployment, the breakdown of relationships, a place to care for those who need care, a place of refuge from violence and the list goes on.”
Morrison said housing is also the principal source of wealth for most families. Australians hold more than $5 trillion in real estate and dwellings.
“Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA) accounts for the majority of this investment at $4.2 billion, the balance being transfers to the states. CRA has been increasing at a rate of almost 7 per cent a year,” he said.
“The supply of housing is simply not keeping up with demand. While record low interest rates is extending credit to more home purchasers, the lack of stock is forcing up prices.”
Social housing stock is static at around 400,000 units, with the only change being internal transfers from public housing to community housing stock.
Affordable housing initiatives have had mixed success, with very few able to scale up to the level of supply needed to make a real difference at a sustainable level of taxpayer support. NRAS costs were 150 per cent higher per unit than social housing or CRA.
And in a criticism of the States, Morrison said: “At the same time State housing expenditures have been flat.”
“We must address this in an holistic way, not by portioning out the social housing and private market factors separately.
“We cannot continue the current failed one-way track of shovelling money to the States for social housing, with no accountability for outcomes or integration with broader policy measures that impact the entire housing market.”
Homelessness support Not for Profit, Launch Housing CEO, Tony Keenan, said he strongly supported the statements by Minister Morrison regarding the important link between housing and difficulties many Australians face in moving out of poverty, extreme disadvantage and into improved health.
“For over 50 years, Launch Housing has undertaken research into homelessness and the evidence is overwhelming; unless we can house people, we will entrench long term and serious disadvantage,” Keenan said.
"Our research into health and family homelessness shows that children become sick and their health deteriorates until they find stable housing.
“A really large percentage of our clients present because they have experienced family violence, and this means that children are not attending school for months while the family floats around crisis accommodation. Young people exiting state care are forced into homelessness, while at the same time we expect them to be studying or working.”
Anglicare Australia also urged a united sector approach to address housing affordability at a Homelessness Summit taking place in Sydney today.
Presenting the findings of Anglicare Australia’s Rental Affordability Snapshot, Anglicare’s Policy and Research Director, Michelle Waterford, urged the social services sector to unite in its call to the Government to act on affordable housing.
Waterford highlighted the level of consensus that exists around the solutions to address the housing affordability crisis.
“A staging ground for action could be the 10 point plan for improved housing affordability developed by the UNSW’s Professor Hal Pawson and partners and it mirrors, in many ways, Anglicare Australia’s own priorities and the priorities for the broader housing and homelessness sector,” Waterford said.
“There is a high level of consensus between agencies, academics, and now growing in the public arena, around housing affordability.
“With this momentum behind the issue, and the prospect of addressing it in the Reform of the Federation discussion paper, there is opportunity for change.
“But for that to happen, government needs to recognise that the sector – in the broadest sense – has a plan and that we need to work together on it.”