Housing Affordability Must be Linked to Infrastructure Agenda
6 October 2016 at 11:39 am
Any new strategies to address housing affordability and homelessness should be linked to Australia’s infrastructure agenda, according to sector leaders at a community forum in Sydney on Wednesday.
Key Not for Profit leaders in the housing and homelessness sector met with Labor’s opposition shadow minister Senator Doug Cameron to discuss what the forum described as “the Turnbull government’s policy vacuum” when it came to addressing national homelessness issues.
Community sector representatives John Falzon from St. Vincent de Paul Society, Adrian Pisarski from National Shelter, Kasy Chambers from Anglicare and Andrea Galloway from Evolve Housing along with 20 other sector leaders met with Cameron to discuss policy priorities.
National Shelter CEO Pisarski told Pro Bono Australia News the meeting discussed the state of play and the sort of measures that could be developed as part of a national housing policy.
“One of the key issues that came up in the discussion was how we have to link housing to the infrastructure agenda. It is a pretty major economic issue as well as a social issue. I think those are both important understandings that have to underpin any [new] strategies,” Pisarski said.
“I have to say that Labor seems to care more. To think that something that is nationally significant and something that affects everybody is not being addressed currently.”
He said he agreed that the government was operating within a policy vacuum when it comes to homelessness.
“They haven’t said anything about homelessness and while I think [social services minister] Christian Porter made a positive start with his speech to the national housing conference last year the changes seem to have diluted the importance of homeless and housing within the government that’s now being passed on to [assistant minister for social services] Senator Zed Seselja’s office,” he said.
“I have tried to make appointments with Zed Seselja and an advisor and my understanding is that they haven’t appointed an advisor yet. I haven’t had any luck yet in securing a meeting with the senator. It doesn’t seem to me that they are prioritising taking advice.”
He said the federal opposition was accepting some of things that the sector had been pushing for a while around tax reform, negative gearing and capital gains tax.
“They are also actively thinking about getting state governments to come to the party with their part of the contributions,” he said.
“They seem committed to the National Partnership Agreement on homelessness and to addressing some of the shortcomings in the national affordable housing agreement. Those were all good things and central to the development of a national housing strategy.”
Cameron said the homelessness crisis in Australia needed urgent attention.
“There should be no higher priority for government than ensuring people have decent shelter. Unfortunately the Turnbull government has completely taken its eyes off the ball on this issue, being too busy with internal divisions to focus on it,” Cameron said.
“As a result, no minister for housing and homelessness has been appointed and no action has been taken to provide long-term funding certainty to the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness which will expire in June 2017.”
He said the Turnbull government’s refusal to provide certainty to the sector was creating havoc among service providers and advocates for people experiencing homelessness.
“The risk of homelessness can only be reduced by a government prepared to work with stakeholders to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing for people on low incomes.”
Chief executive officer of St Vincent de Paul Society, Falzon told Pro Bono Australia News that housing should be a human right.
“Instead, it has become a speculative sport. This is why it is so important to reform negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions,” Falzon said.
“The prime minister wants us to be clever. Well, here’s clever: how about we make sure everyone has a place to call home. Unless you have a place to call home it’s very hard to get a job or to keep a job or to go to school or university or TAFE, and it’s very hard to attend to your healthcare needs.
“The minister for social services is keen on calculating the lifetime cost of social support, begrudging even this meagre income to people who have been locked out of the nation’s prosperity. If only he was as keen about calculating the social cost, the economic cost, the human cost of leaving people in a state of homelessness or the threat of homelessness.”