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Housing and Homelessness ‘Forgotten and Abandoned’ in Budget

9 May 2018 at 11:55 am
Luke Michael
Housing and homelessness issues were “forgotten and abandoned” in this year’s federal budget, according to advocates in the social sector.  

Luke Michael | 9 May 2018 at 11:55 am


Housing and Homelessness ‘Forgotten and Abandoned’ in Budget
9 May 2018 at 11:55 am

Housing and homelessness issues were “forgotten and abandoned” in this year’s federal budget, according to advocates in the social sector.  

Treasurer Scott Morrison’s budget speech on Tuesday barely mentioned housing or homelessness initiatives, besides a “$550 million commitment to address remote housing needs in the Northern Territory and $1.7 billion through our primary health care model”.

National Shelter executive officer Adrian Pisarski said this already announced commitment for remote housing in the NT was “the one unalloyed good housing element of the budget”.            

But he said this begged the question of where the money for remote housing in other states and territories was coming from, given that the forward estimates contained no money for jurisdictions other than the NT.

“This budget shows a lack of long-term commitment to affordable housing, one year’s effort does not make a strategy or anything like a comprehensive package,” Pisarski said.

“This was the government’s chance to build on the good initiatives of 2017 by adding a capital component, looking at how to use Build to Rent, creating new incentives to get states and the private sector to do more, instead there is very little to help people struggling to meet their housing costs.

“There was no boost to Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) to alleviate the crippling rent paid by the lowest income households, no new supply strategy, no tax reform to end the distortions and rebalance the market, nothing to help Gens X and onwards get into the market, it’s very disappointing.”

Pisarski lamented how the government has used new and unforeseen revenue on tax cuts targeting middle income households rather than on the neediest households.

“There is [however] a welcome boost to AHURI (Australian Housing & Urban Research Institute) of $5.5 million over three years for research and $4.6 million over four years for ABS and $0.02 million in 2018/19 for AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) to improve data related to housing and homelessness,” he said.

While CRA is estimated to grow from $4.439 billion to $4.529 billion, its rate and indexation remain the same.

“National Shelter has consistently called for the development of a National Housing Strategy to weave all the threads of tax reform, funding, incentives, planning and urban and regional development together. We remain hopeful but disappointed by budget 2018,” Pisarski said.

Dr John Falzon, the CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, said the government contained no action to address homelessness and Australia’s housing affordability crisis.

“Over the past four budgets the government cut $15 billion from social security and community services, and billions more are in the pipeline. It is unconscionable to be pursuing massive tax cuts while these spending cuts stand, and people on the lowest incomes continue to go without food or secure housing,” Falzon said.

Anglicare Victoria chief executive officer Paul McDonald said the federal budget has ignored the plight of the most disadvantaged Australians by failing to increase welfare benefits or tackle the nation’s homelessness crisis.

“The federal government has been asleep at the wheel on housing and welfare and this budget sees the policy inertia in these two vital areas continue,’’ McDonald said.

“The budget also offers no solution to putting a roof over the head of to the more than 116,000 Australians experiencing homelessness and low income Australians suffering severe rental stress.

“There is no extra funding for housing or homelessness services, despite Anglicare’s latest Rental Affordability Snapshot showing that there is virtually zero rental affordability in any capital city in Australia for anyone on welfare or a minimum wage.’’

The government has said it will establish the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) by 1 July this year, comprising the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator and the $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility.

The new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement is also expected to commence on 1 July, providing $7 billion in housing funding and an additional $620 million for homelessness services over the next five years.

This ensures funding for homelessness services will be ongoing and indexed, the government believes.

Despite this, the Labor Party said the Turnbull government’s budget had again failed to deliver the leadership required to address the nation’s housing and homelessness crisis.

Labor Senator Doug Cameron said the government had “put beyond doubt that it can ever be trusted to credibly address housing affordability”.

“Malcolm Turnbull has no housing minister, no national plan to tackle rising homelessness, and a full year after announcing the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement has yet to reach agreement with any of the states,” Cameron said.

“Labor welcomes the belated decision to address the need to improve housing related data by funding programs in AHURI and the ABS. This is an admission of the mistake by this government made during its disastrous 2014/15 budget to axe the National Housing Supply Council.

“The 2018 budget is testament to the Coalition’s abject failure on housing affordability and homelessness.”


Our 2018 budget coverage is brought to you by Community Sector Banking.

Community Sector Banking

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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