A coalition of social housing advocates have rejected what they describe as “prejudiced” comments made by Jason Falinski, the Sydney Liberal MP leading the national inquiry into housing affordability.
The Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA), Homelessness Australia, and the National Shelter labelled Mr Falinski’s statement as as “uninformed and prejudiced”.
The peak bodies objected in “the strongest terms” to Mr Falinski’s alleged misrepresentation of the sector and disregard for the important contribution that affordable housing makes to the wellbeing of Australians in housing need.
Mr Falinski equated social housing with “housing commission” and criticised affordable schemes as rent fixing that drive up prices and limit supply elsewhere on UDIA’s national television event last week, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
He also told the forum that states and territories needed to “grow up”, referring to the discussion of asking for financial assistance to move away from stamp duty.
Mr Falinski went on to label the argument for increased affordable social housing supply as ‘leftist’, the publication noted.
He described social housing as ‘housing commission’, which was considered to be an outdated term by the peak bodies.
“Since World War II, housing commission has had a lot of negative impact on vulnerable communities and I query whether building it actually helps people in challenged communities,” Mr Falinski said.
“Affordable housing in different guises can do different things, but ultimately, it has the problem of reducing supply while increasing costs, and in some cases, looks and smells like rent control, which … actually means that people pay higher rents.”
As the MP of the affluent Northern Beaches division of Mackellar, Mr Falinski explained a member of his community was charged $500,000 by the local council for building a $1.5 million home.
Mr Falinski’s statements came in the same week that the Women’s Safety Summit issued a statement recognising that affordable long-term housing was “fundamental to the safety and recovery of victim-survivors and must be a priority”.
Jenny Smith, Chair of Homelessness Australia said, “every day, homelessness services are having to scramble to find safe places for women and the children to stay. We urgently need more investment in long term social housing options”.
The Federal Government has previously recognised the importance of social and affordable housing by setting up the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC).
CHIA chief executive officer Wendy Hayhurst explained more affordable rental housing would add to housing supply, create additional construction jobs and provide greater economic output.
“Mr Falinski’s comments are out of touch with official thinking. Only last week Infrastructure Australia recommended the design and implementation of programs to increase supply,” Ms Hayhurst said.
The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan also called for all levels of government to invest in social and affordable rental housing, recognising that well-maintained and designed social housing provides many community benefits, supporting individual and societal wellbeing and productivity, and reducing costs in health and justice services.
“The OECD, led by former Finance Minister Cormann, has also recently endorsed the importance of social housing investment” Ms Hayhurst pointed out.
Head of the National Shelter, Adrian Pisarski went on to add rent across Australia had increased by 8.5 per cent on average over the last five years, and even more in regional areas.
“The Inquiry should look at how to make all housing more affordable and available, and social housing plays a vital role protecting low income and vulnerable families. Markets fail people on low incomes,” Mr Pisarski said.