Housing Affordability Measures Going ‘Backwards’ Minister Warns
20 October 2016 at 10:13 am
Australia’s affordable housing measures so far have gone backwards and meeting current challenges needs the joint effort of all levels of government, the assistant minister for social services Senator Zed Seselja has warned.
Seselja addressed the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s conference on the future of housing assistance in Adelaide on Wednesday.
He said despite significant investment in housing and homelessness assistance – almost $10 billion annually by the Commonwealth, states and territories – housing and homelessness outcomes continued to decline.
“When the Labor party was in government, it left Australian taxpayers with a number of legacy programs with little accountability and which have seen very little improvement in housing affordability,” Seselja said.
He said that the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), which represents around $1.3 billion of Commonwealth investment each year, required particular attention.
“We can’t mistake activity for outcomes despite significant investment, not only has the NAHA failed to meet virtually all of its original objectives, on most measures affordable housing has gone backwards,” he said.
“Since Labor implemented NAHA proportion of low income households in rental stress increased from 35.4 per cent in 2007/08 to 42.5 per cent in 2013/14 and the number of homeless persons has gone up by 17.3 per cent since 2009.
“We need to ensure that this investment is directed at achieving the best possible outcomes for those households in housing stress or at risk of homelessness.
Seselja said there was a need to look at how planning and zoning issues could be a key impediment to increasing housing supply and improving housing affordability.
“I am looking forward to the housing and homelessness ministers’ meeting in Sydney next month to discuss how we will all work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for households in housing stress or at risk of homelessness.”
During Anti-Poverty Week this week not-for-profit and business leaders agreed that the private sector could also play a powerful role in addressing poverty and homelessness challenges.
Andrew Cairns, CEO of Community Sector Banking, a B Corp jointly owned by Community 21 and Bendigo Bank, said he was passionate about the private sector creating positive change.
“If you actually have a look at… the size of the Australian economy in four sectors – households are spending around $700 billion, you’ve got a government spending about $400 billion, you’ve got the not-for-profit sector spending about $300 billion, and if you carve out schools and hospitals that’s about $150 billion,” Cairns said.
“Then you’ve got private enterprise making around $200 billion worth of profits after tax.
“We have a very fundamental belief you can be a good business and you can do good business at the same time.
“I don’t know what it’s like to fill out a form and not be able to put an address on a form… but there’s over 100,000 people in Australia who don’t know where they’re going to sleep tonight.
“And that’s a third-world problem in a first-world country, and we’ve got to change our behaviour and how we interact as an economy as a whole to actually solve problems.”
Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith said the private sector should help address housing affordability, which she said was one of the leading drivers of poverty in Australia.
“The areas in particular that we would see are obvious places for the private sector to be involved is inclusionary zoning, so every time we have a new housing development or redevelopment, that you would expect a proportion, say 10 per cent of that, would be for low-cost housing,” Smith said.
“And also the private sector could generate more affordable housing right through our cities and towns.
“The other big area is that our superannuation funds could be more involved in financing affordable housing.”