Homelessness campaign holds out hope on social housing policies
15 May 2019 at 5:30 pm
Candidates are being cautioned not to underestimate the power of voters experiencing rental stress, following the launch of the first home-loan deposit scheme, which advocates say ignores the needs of nearly one million households living under housing stress.
The first home-loan deposit scheme is the centrepiece of the Coalition’s housing policy, promising to help 10,000 first home buyers into the market by allowing borrowers to top up a 5 per cent deposit to 20 per cent of a house’s value with a guarantee from the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.
The scheme has also been backed by Labor.
But the Everybody’s Home campaign, a national coalition of housing affordability and homelessness organisations slammed the policy, saying it won’t address the systemic failures in a housing system broken for many Australians.
“The government wants to help some home buyers with their deposit, but still gives investors $32 billion in tax breaks to outbid them at auction,” Kate Colvin, the spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, said.
“It’s like giving home buyers a pat on the back with one hand and a sucker punch to the head with the other.”
Everybody’s Home also released a scorecard rating the major parties’ housing policies against five measures the campaign believes will fix the housing system. The scorecard found Labor and the Greens were way ahead of the Coalition.
It said Labor “supported” winding back negative gearing, a better deal for renters and a plan to end homelessness, and “somewhat supported” immediate relief for Australians in chronic rental stress, and building 500,000 more social and affordable homes.
The Greens “supported” all five measures except immediate relief for Australians in chronic rental stress, which it somewhat supported. The Coalition did not support any of the measures.
Colvin told Pro Bono News Labor’s commitment to delivering 250,000 affordable home was significant.
But she said in terms of it being affordable for people who were at risk of falling into homelessness, the same commitment needed to be made on providing social housing.
Colvin said high rates of rental stress in marginal electorates, such as Dobell and Gilmore in New South Wales, and Flinders and Corangamite in Victoria, meant that housing could be a dealbreaker.
“Renters are a growing electoral force that all parties should pay proper attention to if they are serious about winning on Saturday,” she said.
“People in the community want to see action on the issues that are very important to them and housing is the biggest cost of living issue for households in Australia.”
Community groups have also released a joint statement this week condemning the use of mock rent increase notices as election material by the Coalition, for the negative impact it could have on people already living under rental stress.
The advertising material said rent would increase under Labor’s proposals to reform negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.
ACOSS, Homelessness Australia, National Shelter, Community Housing Industry Association and National Association of Tenant Organisations said the mock notices were “grossly misleading” and were likely to cause unnecessary anxiety amongst vulnerable renters.
“Renters in Australia already face some of the weakest regulatory protections, from which landlords currently benefit. Many tenants have faced repeated rent hikes which cause deep financial stress,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.
Colvin described the material as shocking, particularly when the Coalition had not actually put forward any policies to reduce rental stress.
“It’s the two things together that make it so wrong, they are scaring people and there’s no policy to actually do anything about it,” Colvin said.
Adrian Pisarski, National Shelter CEO, said the current tax concessions for housing investors have driven up house prices and rents and should be wound back.
“There is no evidence to suggest that rents would increase as a result of Labor’s proposed reforms. To the contrary, these changes are likely to reduce pressure on the housing market, improving affordability for both buyers and renters,” Pisarski said.
Everybody’s Home also called out a “fake news” media release on Tuesday, which it said was targeting Labor ahead of the election on Saturday.
The release came from a fake group calling itself the “Victorian Housing Network”, and referenced a speech by Victorian state Labor MP Danny Pearson in 2017 in which he stated his personal support for death duties of 5 per cent.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, the email appeared to impersonate Essential Media and called on Labor leader Bill Shorten to “disown and rule out” death taxes, which he has already done.
With the political fate of the country to be decided on Saturday, Colvin said she was holding out hope until the very last minute for the Coalition to offer up any policies to address affordable housing and homelessness.
She also encouraged community members to continue to push local candidates for commitments on these issues.
“It’s not too late to keep putting pressure on the parties to deliver what’s needed,” she said.
“We can see now what has been delivered but we will hold out hope until the ballot is closed.”