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Housing forum showcases fixes for a broken ecosystem

9 May 2022 at 4:58 pm
Danielle Kutchel
Housing is proving to be a hot button issue of the election, as advocates and charities come together to voice their concern about the housing crisis.

Danielle Kutchel | 9 May 2022 at 4:58 pm


Housing forum showcases fixes for a broken ecosystem
9 May 2022 at 4:58 pm

Housing is proving to be a hot button issue of the election, as advocates and charities come together to voice their concern about the housing crisis faced by thousands of Australians every day.

Australia’s supply of social and affordable housing must be increased and support for renters must be addressed in order to tackle the nation’s housing crisis, a forum has heard.

In the pre-election event hosted by housing advocacy body National Shelter, an audience of other advocates and service providers heard from politicians about how they would address the crisis and get people into safe, stable housing.

Politicians from across the parliamentary rainbow attended, including Rebekha Sharkie from Centre Alliance, Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, and independent Andrew Wilkie. Labor’s shadow minister for housing and homelessness, Jason Clare, was out on the campaign trail and was represented by Scott Davies. Minister for Housing Michael Sukkar did not attend and did not respond to questions from Pro Bono News before deadline.

The candidates present agreed that housing supply was a critical issue, with Faruqi and Davies spruiking the Greens and Labor plans to increase social and affordable housing. But Labor ruled out changing the tax settings around housing, with Davies admitting this was due to the party’s failure to succeed in winning over the electorate in the 2019 election.

Wilkie and Faruqi also said they wanted to see an increase to Commonwealth rent assistance, but Davies said Labor would make no commitment to raising that rate.

Touching on homelessness and housing insecurity for First Nations people, Davies said Labor’s proposed Housing Australia Future Fund would provide $200 million for the repair and maintenance of remote Indigenous housing. Wilkie said he wanted to see housing co-designed with First Nations community organisations and service providers so it addressed the needs the community identified.

Following the forum, Emma Greenhalgh, CEO of National Shelter, told Pro Bono News the diversity of issues discussed showed how complex the housing “ecosystem” is.

“What’s been really heartening out of this campaign and even this afternoon is the  acknowledgement that it is a housing system and we need to have all parts working well to be effective – that it is not just about the delivery of social and affordable housing,” she said.

But she said the major parties appeared to be largely forgetting about renters, with Labor ruling out committing to an increase in Commonwealth rent assistance at this stage.

She expressed concerns that renters were not able to assert their rights at the moment in relation to rent increases or property standards such as mould.

“The market is so skewed at the moment that people don’t want to assert their rights because they’re concerned about being evicted and there’s no other housing to go to,” she said.

“Tenancy law is so inconsistent across Australia. We would like to see a kind of national framework [of tenancy laws].”

Greenhalgh said plans by Labor and the Greens to design a national housing and homelessness strategy were welcome, as this would provide leadership for other stakeholders to “make housing work effectively”. Housing, she said, needed a cohesive approach that would address both supply and demand.

Regardless of who forms government after 21 May, Greenhalgh said any commitments relating to housing would need to be implemented immediately.

“We know they’re not going to be things that can be delivered tomorrow. But it’s about running to get them moving as quickly as possible. The community housing sector is ready to go and has its proposals ready,” she said.

She said National Shelter would like to see Housing Australia shifted to within the prime minister’s department to highlight the seriousness of the issue. 

Lived experience should be incorporated into the development of a national housing strategy so that those who have experienced the housing crisis first-hand can be involved in shaping things for the better on an ongoing basis, Greenhalgh added. To enable this, appropriate supports would need to be put in place to allow people to feel safe and stable enough to share their stories.

Greenhalgh said National Shelter would also like to see community housing providers and developers work more closely together and share skills and expertise.

Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting.

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