Housing system is broke and broken, but government alone can’t solve this crisis

view original post

Last weekend, when I had family visiting, I witnessed my three-year-old nephew making a structure out of papers in my study. He wants to be a builder, like his dad, and is always making something. The papers he was using to form his building were mostly hard copies of the various housing inquiries and government strategies that have littered the landscape over the past decade. I have been reluctant to add them to landfill, having printed the material long ago.

To crown the “building”, I handed him a copy of the recently released National Housing Supply and Affordability Council State of the Housing System 2024 report. With that, my nephew admired his handiwork – a towering “apartment block”. The irony is that most of the papers in the stack produced little more in the way of substantial changes in the housing system.

Illustration by Andrew DysonCredit:

Make no mistake: the housing system is broke and broken. Not as the result of a single form of government, a single level of government or a single term of government. Housing policy is complex and far too often induces a political reflex to call for an inquiry – Senate, NSW upper house, Productivity Commission or a housing strategy (take your pick) – which inevitably finds there is a problem in the housing system, or announces a silver-bullet policy initiative (first home buyers such and such, planning reform this and that). Though, in reality, there is no silver bullet, the announcement may make enough of a bang that it distracts the crowd.

On Friday, the Albanese government announced a headline investment of $11.3 billion to build more homes for more Australians. It appears that beyond the headline figures much of the funding announced is a continuation of the existing core funding of $1.6 billion a year in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA). This is an important commitment that enables states and territories to continue to fund homelessness services and the provision of existing social housing. But it is not accelerating the delivery of new social and affordable housing.

To fire on all fronts, the government must increase funding and accelerate existing commitments. In January, the federal government fired the starting gun on round one of the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund and the National Housing Accord agreed between the Commonwealth and the states. Based on an election commitment, the HAFF and accord aim to deliver 40,000 social and affordable homes over five years.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Minister for Housing and Homelessness Julie Collins arrive for question time at Parliament House in Canberra.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

PowerHousing Australia, a national body for purpose-driven community housing providers, says its members have submitted applications for 26,000 homes in this first round of the HAFF.

But here is a challenge for the Albanese government whose Housing Minister, Julie Collins, said at the launch of the State of Housing report: “We want to build more homes, more quickly and closer to where Australians want to live and work.”

So, instead of 40,000 homes over five years, the government should commit in Tuesday’s budget to funding for 20,000 to 30,000 homes this year. Taking this a step further, it could use a forecast strong budget position to double the size of the HAFF to $20 billion, which would provide a down payment on homes that will still be required in the years ahead.