How social housing investment could help save Australia's construction industry
3 June 2020 at 5:14 pm
New analysis shows that a four-year social house building program could create up to 18,000 full-time jobs a year
The federal government is being urged to complement its construction sector stimulus package with a social housing investment boost, which advocates say will create thousands of jobs and help house vulnerable people.
Numerous reports suggest Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s construction stimulus package – set to be launched this week – will be worth just under $1 billion and include cash grants to build new homes and encourage home renovations.
Housing advocates want Commonwealth money also directed towards social housing, calling for a $7.2 billion package to build new homes and $500 million to renovate existing properties.
It comes as new analysis from Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) and National Shelter shows that investing in a four-year social house building program of 30,000 homes will create up to 18,000 full-time equivalent jobs a year.
Wendy Hayhurst, the CEO at CHIA, said with 2021-22 earmarked as an anticipated economic weak point, this proposal – The Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP) – would benefit Australia’s struggling construction industry.
Hayhurst told Pro Bono News that with the federal government focused on job creation, investing in social housing was a surefire way to do so while also addressing social needs.
She said that SHARP would complement the government’s upcoming construction stimulus measures.
“The government package that we’re hearing about is a very short-term response to prevent people losing their jobs,” Hayhurst said.
“Our [proposal] not only focuses on the 1.3 million Australians who are in poverty simply because they’re paying too much on housing costs, but it also gets people into jobs, and maintains long-term employment in the building and supplies trade as well.”
The nation’s social housing shortfall has been well publicised in the past, and 2019 research suggests Australia needs to build more than one million social and affordable houses over the next 20 years to keep pace with the growing number of people struggling to pay their rent.
Hayhurst said SHARP would not only address this shortfall, but also helps house the thousands of vulnerable Australians in temporary accommodation because of the COVID crisis.
“Those people either came from very insecure and unsafe accommodation or were living on the street. So finding accommodation for that group of people is something that I think is worth resolving,” she said.
“And being able to renovate social housing, and build new homes through this program, would really make a dent in homelessness.”