Infrastructure wins big, but housing left behind
3 April 2019 at 12:19 pm
Despite infrastructure coming out as one of this year’s federal budget big winners, spending around social and affordable housing barely made mention, leaving community housing and homelessness groups reeling.
A $100 billion boost to infrastructure projects around the country was announced on Tuesday, promising to ease congestion in cities, improve roads, manage population growth, and better public transport options for regional areas.
“Cranes, hard hats and heavy machinery will be seen across the country, as we build Australia for current and future generations,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
But community housing organisations were left confused, with the funding announcement not including any kind of spending for community and affordable housing, or any kind of strategy to end homelessness.
Adrian Pisarski, National Shelter spokesperson, told Pro Bono News it was disappointing that despite the splurge on infrastructure, social and community housing was completely left out.
“We would have thought that with $100 billion worth of expenditure going forward, there could have been something in there for affordable housing, there wasn’t,” Pisarski said.
“Affordable and social housing is essential infrastructure, so there should have been some direct line linking that spending with affordable housing.”
He also said the $158 million dollars in tax cuts over the next decade (the other big centrepiece policy of this year’s budget), would be of no benefit for low income renters.
“The tax cuts offered by the government may add $5 to the budgets of people on incomes up to $708 per week, but $5 a week won’t dent the rent,” he said.
“Even $20 a week for incomes of $919 per week doesn’t help that much against often rising rents of $400 or $500 a week that many on those incomes face.”
He said the establishment of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) two years ago was not enough, and the government could not assume that the issue was now fixed.
“Affordable housing and social housing, both public and community housing, ain’t fixed,’ he said.
Kate Colvin, spokesperson for the Everybody’s Home Campaign said with homelessness in Australia reaching record levels and 811,000 Australian households going without basics just to pay the rent, the budget failed to deliver any relief.
“We are, once again, reaching out to the federal government to recognise the ongoing housing crisis in the 2019 Budget,” Colvin said.
“The government currently spends $11.8 billion on housing assistance for property investors through negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions – almost twice as much as it spends on social housing, rent assistance and homelessness put together.”
Mission Australia CEO James Toomey echoed the sentiment, and said the government had “blatantly neglected” the needs of thousands of people experiencing homelessness and rental stress, in this year’s budget.
“This must be tackled as a priority, particularly while the budget is in surplus. The essential social infrastructure of housing has been ignored, despite a boost in infrastructure spending,” Toomey said.
“This is a national responsibility and a good budget must prioritise ensuring that everyone has a safe, secure place to call home.
“Australia’s housing system remains broken and in urgent need of repair and investment. A safe, secure home provides the foundation from which Australians can access work, education, healthcare and connect with their communities.”
The Everybody’s Home Campaign has repeatedly called for a reduction in tax breaks for property investors, a national housing strategy, an investment in homelessness services, and for 500,000 new affordable homes to be built by 2023.
Colvin said the campaign would continue to push for these measures coming into the federal election.
Our 2019 budget coverage is brought to you by Community Sector Banking.