Sector Celebrates Shorten’s Historic Affordable Housing Commitment
18 December 2018 at 8:40 am
The community sector is celebrating Labor’s election commitment of 250,000 affordable rental properties over ten years, labelling it a game changer for vulnerable Australians facing rental stress.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten made the $6.6 billion announcement during his opening address at the ALP national conference on Monday. The plan offered 15-year subsidies of $8,500 a year to investors who build new houses, as long as the rent is kept at 20 per cent below market price.
Kate Colvin, spokesperson for the Everybody’s Home Campaign, said considering 811,00 Australian households across the country were in rental stress, the announcement was a game changer.
“The narrow focus on real estate prices and home buyers means they’ve been totally ignored in the housing debate until now,” Colvin said.
“This election we need all parties to support a national housing strategy that includes a plan to deliver the social and affordable rental homes Australians need. We asked Labor to step up to the plate and they’ve totally knocked it out of the park.”
Australian Council of Social Service also welcomed the commitment by Shorten, and offered to work with Labor, if elected, to ensure the package delivered for those struggling the most financially.
ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said the program to drive investment in new affordable rental stock would also encourage energy efficiency.
“We know low income households have to spend a far greater proportion of their income on electricity bills than medium and high income households,” Goldie said.
Community Sector Banking CEO, Andrew Cairns, also welcomed the announcement, but less enthusiastically, saying it was a step in the right direction, but more needed to be done to address the housing affordability gap.
“Bill Shorten is right to say that rental affordability is a national challenge however it is more of a national crisis,” Cairns said.
“Providing more affordable homes for people on low and moderate incomes is a welcome step in the right direction however 20,000 new units and houses over the next four years would only go some way to addressing the huge shortfall.”
Goldie said she awaited the Morrison Government’s plan to address the issue as part of the government’s election platform.
“We welcome the opposition’s commitment, and we now need the Morrison government to urgently address our housing affordability crisis.”
While Minister for Social Services Paul Fletcher didn’t announce a plan, he did criticise Shorten’s commitment and said it was just a recycled National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).
“Labor’s NRAS scheme left investors vulnerable to scammers and did too little to boost affordable housing stock – but Bill Shorten wants to go back to the same flawed approach,” Fletcher said.
“This poorly thought out announcement is entirely consistent with Labor’s sorry policy approach to housing – including its plan to cut negative gearing which will drive house prices down further and make life harder for Australians wanting to rent a home.”
But Colvin told Pro Bono News structural differences between the two schemes meant the recent announcement was better than the NRAS, as community housing would be the ones to deliver the program, not just individual investors.
“One of the big differences is that the delivery will happen through community housing, which gives significant capacity for community housing to grow and deliver more housing opportunities to people on low incomes,” she said.
“Some of the flaws of the scheme were a consequence of individual investors delivering housing.”
Fletcher said the Morrison government would spend $7 billion on delivering affordable homes through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, but Colvin said this was what they had previously committed to, and continuing with the status quo was no longer good enough.
“Fletcher is putting his head in the sand and saying we don’t have a problem when we very clearly have a problem,” she said.
“So it’s really time the federal government starts thinking seriously about how to grow affordable housing because the policies that they have in place are definitely not achieving that.”