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Labor Pledges to Put Affordable Housing Front and Centre of National Policy

22 November 2018 at 8:53 am
Luke Michael
The community sector has welcomed a commitment from Labor leader Bill Shorten to prioritise affordable housing and implement a national housing strategy if elected.  

Luke Michael | 22 November 2018 at 8:53 am


Labor Pledges to Put Affordable Housing Front and Centre of National Policy
22 November 2018 at 8:53 am

The community sector has welcomed a commitment from Labor leader Bill Shorten to prioritise affordable housing and implement a national housing strategy if elected.  

Shorten addressed the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) on Tuesday and said a Labor government would put affordable housing at the forefront of national policy for the next decade and beyond.

“[This] has to begin with a national housing strategy, doesn’t it?” Shorten said.

“One that acknowledges the fundamental role of the Commonwealth, that the national government plays in this – of course it has to be in conjunction with the states and the territories, local government and the private sector, and the not-for-profit sector.”

Community groups broadly supported Shorten’s call for a national housing strategy, which advocates say would integrate the financial and policy settings of different states and territories to deliver affordable housing across the entire housing system.

Kate Colvin, a spokesperson for the NFP-led Everybody’s Home campaign – which has long advocated for a national housing strategy – congratulated Shorten for making the pledge.

“We can’t get local, state and federal governments working together without a national housing strategy,” Colvin told Pro Bono News.

“And it’s also the way that we can properly tie the challenges of growing population together with what needs to happen in the housing market to respond to that.”

Shorten reiterated Labor’s intention to help first homebuyers through a range of measures including changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.

He said Labor did not see social and affordable housing as a welfare measure, but rather a driver of investment, productivity and job creation.

“I want the homeless, the people in public housing, the renters, those who go to work and work very hard but can never get a deposit together, to be front and centre to the way we judge a party’s agenda for the future of Australia,” he said.

The Labor leader also promised to support the nearly one million Australians experiencing rental stress, who spend over 30 per cent of their income on housing costs.

Colvin praised Shorten for reframing the national housing debate to focus on renters, who she said were the most affected by housing affordability issues.

“Labor has today marked a turning point in the national debate around housing by moving the focus from real estate prices and property investor’s profits to recognising that everybody in Australia needs a home, whether they own it or not,” she said.

Colvin called on the federal government to show national leadership on housing and not place the burden solely on the states and territories.  

“What we’d like to see from the government is an equivalent commitment to renters and people struggling just to keep a roof over their head, and strategies that address that,” she said.  

“There seems to be no policy conversations or leadership happening at the moment.”

CHIA also launched its national plan for affordable housing on Tuesday.

It called for 100,000 new affordable houses and 100,000 new social housing units to be built in Australia over the next decade – which the group said would halve the number of homeless Australians by 2028.

The report said the federal government had the central responsibility to lead policy on affordable housing.  

CHIA urged the federal government to appoint a dedicated housing minister, establish a National Housing Planning Council, and reform capital gains tax and negative gearing so the savings can be redirected to increase affordable housing supply.

A spokesperson for the Assistant Housing Minister, Sarah Henderson, told Pro Bono News that delivering housing and homelessness services was primarily the responsibility of states and territories.

But they said the government had a comprehensive housing affordability plan to unlock supply and improve outcomes for those most in need, through initiatives like the new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement and a $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility.

The spokesperson did not comment on if the government would consider implementing a national housing strategy.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

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

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One comment

  • Chris Aitchison says:

    Fabulous news. Thank you, Luke.
    I particularly welcome the way social housing is being reframed as “a driver of investment, productivity and job creation,” as opposed to a welfare measure. Of course, before it is any of these things, it is sanctuary and shelter, a place to raise and nurture a family, a safe place wherein those who are nursing fresh or festering wounds can heal and find stability, and a place from which one can launch into new phases of life once one has had the opportunity, in such a safe and stable place, to find wholeness and wellness. But it is a positive reframing nevertheless, and one that might find greater traction in a society that has been conditioned to welcome such terms as “investment”, “productivity”, and “job creation”. It has the capacity to win the minds of some who may not be persuaded by talk of equity, compassion, and so on.

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