Government Moves Forward on Affordable Housing
10 March 2017 at 5:44 pm
A new affordable housing plan to assist renters and those on lower incomes in accessing community housing has been given the green light by the federal government.
Treasurer Scott Morrison announced on Friday the establishment of the Affordable Housing Implementation Taskforce, which will develop an affordable housing bond aggregator model for consideration by the Commonwealth and the states and territories.
He said the government recognised that housing affordability remained “a concern for many hard-working Australians, including the 30 per cent of Australians who live in rented homes, and those who rely on affordable and social housing.”
“An affordable housing bond aggregator would allow a financial intermediary to attract greater private sector investment into affordable housing,” Morrison said.
“This would give community housing providers access to cheaper and longer term debt, freeing up capital for the construction of new affordable housing.”
An expert panel, include Stephen Knight as chair, Peta Winzar and John Fraser, has been appointed to guide the work of the taskforce.
It follows the recommendations of the Affordable Housing Working Group’s report, which was endorsed by treasurers at the Council on Federal Financial Relations meeting in late 2016.
The treasurer also signalled the May budget would have a range of policy measures designed to tackle housing affordability, both for renters and for first home buyers, including the possible creation of a new Affordable Housing Finance Corporation to inject hundreds of millions of dollars investment in community housing.
The move has been broadly welcomed by the not-for-profit sector, although concerns remain over the future of the National Affordable Housing Agreement.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said she appreciated the government’s commitment to doing more work on a range of issues to improve housing affordability.
She stressed that collaboration between all levels of government, as well as the private and community sectors, was crucial to creating a workable system.
“Housing underpins everything, whether health, education and general well being, and there is no doubt there is a crisis in housing in Australia,” Chambers said.
“We are pleased to see that renters, who represent over one-third of Australians are being considered.
“This number is growing and the length of time people spend in rentals is increasing. Currently, there are more than 200,000 people on social housing waiting lists around Australia.”
But she said while affordability was a “first-order issue”, it was also important to consider other issues for renters such as energy efficiency and security.
“For the last seven years, Anglicare Australia has released a wide-ranging report called the Rental Affordability Snapshot and we have consistently found that the rental market is totally unaffordable for people on government benefits and minimum wage, and puts many working people into rental stress,” she said.
“There is a significant need to reform negative gearing rules and the Capital Gains Tax concessions to better drive housing affordability rather than the creation of individual wealth. We would also suggest that in this plan, a review needs to consider the impact of other taxes (stamp duty, land taxes) on housing for low-income households.
“In principle, these huge costs to the public purse should bring in some public good in the area of housing. In the light of this far reaching visionary approach it does not seem like the time to remove the NAHA (National Affordable Housing Agreement).”
Meanwhile Shelter WA spokesperson Stephen Hall said it was “terrific” that the federal government was taking a leadership role in relation to leveraging private capital into the community housing sector.
“Shelter WA has advocated for this, amongst a suite of reforms, as it is a model that has worked internationally,” Hall said.
But he raised concerns that the federal government could see this as a replacement for public funding for services under the NAHA, which he said was “vital to the provision of housing and homelessness services in WA”.
“This is an innovative model for Australia, but must be seen as a supplement to a renewed NAHA, and not a replacement for it” he said.
The shadow minister for housing and homelessness Senator Doug Cameron criticised the government for being “slow on housing affordability”.
He said suggestions that the Turnbull government was making progress tackling Australia’s housing affordability crisis were “grossly exaggerated”.
“Today’s announcement by the treasurer that he has appointed members of a taskforce to design a bond aggregator to finance community housing comes four months after the formation of the taskforce was announced on 2 December last year,” Cameron said.
“The four month delay between December and today’s announcement is another example of the delay and inaction on housing affordability that is the hallmark of the Turnbull government.”