Federal government urged to boost social housing investment
31 August 2020 at 5:39 pm
Advocates say investing in this area would help rebuild Australia as it recovers from the economic impacts of the pandemic
National housing and homelessness peak bodies have issued a united call for the Commonwealth to create economic stimulus by investing in social housing, as the Morrison government prepares to hand down the federal budget in early October.
The Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA), National Shelter, and Homelessness Australia have used their pre-budget submissions to urge the government to consider its proposal for a Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP).
Housing advocates say investing in this four-year social house building program of 30,000 homes will create up to 18,000 full-time equivalent jobs a year.
The project calls for a government investment of $7.2 billion for new build/acquisition of houses and $500 million for renovation of existing homes.
Commonwealth contributions would be complemented by state/territory governments in the form of land and/or capital, while local governments would also be able to contribute.
CHIA CEO Wendy Hayhurst said investing in the SHARP proposal would help rebuild Australia as it recovers from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
“Adopting the SHARP proposal just makes good sense because there is almost infinite demand for social housing, this is a build program that can ramp up quickly and the activity can be targeted where the economic impacts are felt most,” Hayhurst said.
“It would create thousands of new construction jobs rather than simply bringing forward construction that was already planned.”
The Master Builders latest construction forecast predicts there will be a 27 per cent fall in home building, and Hayhurt said this would have massive employment consequences for an industry supplying almost one in 10 Australian jobs.
Adrian Pisarski, the CEO at National Shelter, suggested that the federal government could use its fiscal fire power to increase contributions from the states and territories via the national cabinet’s new housing committee.
“This proposal requires a significant financial commitment but the return on investment is at least double and the benefits go well beyond housing,” Pisarski said.
Advocates point to SGS Economics and Planning modelling that shows SHARP would raise output in Australia by at least $15.7 billion over the four years of construction, and increase GDP by anywhere between $5.8 to $6.7 billion.
Homelessness Australia chair Jenny Smith added that SHARP would also help address the nation’s homelessness problem.
“Even before the pandemic, over 116,000 Australians were without a home every single night and 811,000 Australian households were paying more for rent than they could afford,” Smith said.
“Now with growing unemployment, and cuts coming to Centrelink payments, homelessness is set to skyrocket, unless the federal government uses the opportunity provided by economic stimulus right now.”
The federal budget will be handed down on 6 October.