Calls for Transparency in Affordable Housing Funding
25 January 2017 at 4:36 pm
The peak body for housing associations in New South Wales has called for greater transparency on where affordable housing money is spent, following a report that reveals a decline in funding.
The Productivity Commission has found that federal government funding for the national affordable housing agreement (NAHA) decreased from $2.2 billion in 2011/12 to $1.8 billion last financial year.
NAHA is a federal, state and territory initiative that aims to provide all Australians with access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing.
The Productivity Commission report also found that the states and territories decreased their net funding for social housing from $4.1 billion in 2014/15 to $3.9 billion last year.
NSW Federation of Housing Association CEO Wendy Hayhurst told Pro Bono News more resources were needed to tackle Australia’s housing crisis.
“The treasurer [Scott Morrison] talks quite clearly about the outcomes from the current investment not meeting the challenges that there are out there. And we would agree with that,” Hayhurst said.
“What we would say is that there is a requirement for an additional resource.
“All organisations working both in housing and homelessness recognise the need to ensure that they’re efficient and that the programs they deliver are effective.
“We want to spend money well, but there is a real shortage of affordable housing and that can impact on how services are delivered. It’s very difficult to deliver a homelessness service if there isn’t accomodation for the person you’re delivering the support services to.”
Morrison is currently in the UK looking at new methods to increase the supply of affordable housing, including bonds that combine private and public funding.
He acknowledged the need for more dwellings “to meet the rising demand of a growing economy” but said there was no “silver bullet” solution.
Hayhurst said research showed a “massive undersupply” in affordable housing. In New South Wales alone an additional 100,000 social and affordable homes needs to be constructed over the next 20 years to make up for the backlog and the future anticipated needs of a growing population.
“That’s not going to happen without additional resources going in. It sounds an awful lot of money that’s being spent, but in comparison to what?” Hayhurst said.
“There’s a lot spent on health and education. It isn’t a lot in comparison with what’s actually required to solve problems here.
“We’ve got to look very carefully at what it is being spent on… but not assume that we can just shift around the budgets and get the outcomes that we actually do require.
“It would be quite dangerous to see money taken out of homelessness and housing services and put into other areas without thinking through all the consequences of that.”
She said although NAHA was intended to be a whole-of-government approach, greater transparency is needed between jurisdictions to understand where money is being spent and justify additional resources.
“We want to see [funding] being a lot more transparent – what that money is being spent on related to what is actually required,” she said.
“One of the great things would be if there was a national housing strategy. We’re all talking about housing unaffordability, but there isn’t really anything coordinated.
“Many of the states don’t have anything, we don’t have a comprehensive housing strategy at a state level. There isn’t anything at the national level.
“When there is a pot of money to be spent, it’s very difficult to know whether or not it’s achieving what you want it to achieve.
“[We want] to say: ‘All of this money is there, maybe additional amounts are required, but let’s be sure that we know exactly what that NAHA money is being spent on at the moment and that it is providing us with what we want.’”