Housing affordability stress ahead of the federal election

A social housing campaign group has called on the Federal Government to tackle Australia’s growing affordable housing crisis, with a poll in the swing seat of Longman showing almost two-thirds of residents believe affording to buy or rent is excessively difficult.

The Everybody’s Home poll of 1025 residents showed that 75 per cent of respondents thought it was either ‘hard’ or ‘very hard’ for people on low-to-middle incomes to rent in their community.

While 72 per cent felt it was ‘hard’ or ‘very hard’ for low-to-medium income earners to buy in the area.

In its Budget Position Paper, Everybody’s Home said federal funding for social and Indigenous housing had been slashed from more than $2 billion in 2013-14 to $1.6 billion budgeted for 2023-24. 

The group said the social housing budget should be $2.7 billion indexed for inflation and the $1.1 billion shortfall is one of the main reasons for the current rental crisis.

National spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, Kate Colvin said the lack of affordable housing is putting pressure on rents, and many working-class Australians were on the brink of homelessness.

“Rents have surged while incomes have barely budged,” Ms Colvin said. 

“An ever-greater chunk of wages is going to rent and it’s pushing people in key jobs like aged care, childcare and supermarkets to the brink of homelessness and poverty.

“People on modest incomes now have to fight tooth and nail to get a home and maintain it. It shouldn’t be this difficult to keep a roof over your head in a wealthy country like Australia.”

A 2018 Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute study estimated there was a national social and affordable housing shortfall of 437,586 dwellings.

This was predicted to grow to 730,000 dwellings by 2036.

The National Housing Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC) has predicted Australia will need an additional 890,000 social and affordable homes over the next 20 years, requiring a building program of 45,000 homes per year.

According to SGS Economics & Planning, maintaining the current share of social housing as a proportion of Australia’s housing stock will require the construction of 15,000 new social housing properties a year.

However, the current rate of new social housing construction is about 3000 dwellings a year, leaving tens of thousands of Australians struggling to find adequate and affordable accommodation, leading to a “brewing social crisis”.

Everybody’s Home has called on the Federal Government to begin building at least 25,000 homes for social housing each year to address the ongoing issue.

Recent SGS Economics & Planning modelling suggests building that number of homes would generate an economic output of $12.7 billion, and create 15,700 jobs.

The campaign group wants the Federal Government to work with the states and territories to develop a National Housing Strategy under the control of a dedicated statutory agency, while concurrently creating a ​​National Homelessness Strategy.

Everybody’s Home said there is also a need to re-establish an independent body similar to the now-abolished National Housing Supply Council (NHSC) to provide evidence-based decision making on housing matters.

Ms Colvin said it’s time for governments at all levels to look beyond short-term fixes such as the First Homeowner’s Grant.

“Voters are rejecting band-aid solutions like First Homeowner Grants because they know we need to give renters on low and modest incomes the stability of a secure home,” she said.

“Politicians who propose solutions that work, such as more social and affordable housing, will successfully connect with voters.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.