Labor would spend $10 billion on social and affordable housing over five years if elected to government at the next federal poll, Anthony Albanese told Parliament on Thursday night.
The Federal Opposition Leader made social and affordable housing one of Labor’s key policies in his Budget reply speech in Canberra, pledging to create a $10 billion Future Fund to pay for the plan if his party wins the next federal election.
“This is a Future Fund that will give more Australians a future,” Mr Albanese said.
He said Labor would create the fund using borrowed money, with plans to build 30,000 houses in the five years through investment returns.
Mr Albanese said the investment returns would fund 20,000 social houses, with 4000 of those to be allocated for women and children fleeing domestic violence, and older women at risk of homelessness.
A further 10,000 affordable properties would be allocated to health and emergency services workers in the first five years under the plan.
“We will build 10,000 affordable housing properties for frontline workers – the heroes of the pandemic, those nurses, police, emergency service workers and cleaners that are keeping us safe,” Mr Albanese said.
“Our housing plan is good for jobs too,” Mr Albanese said. “This initiative will create over 21,500 jobs each year.”
In addition to funding the construction of new dwellings, Mr Albanese said the plan would also include improvements and repairs to existing properties, with a particular focus on remote Indigenous communities.
“Some of the worst housing standards in the world are endured by our First Nations people,” he said.
“As part of our commitment to Closing the Gap the Fund will provide $200 million for the repair, maintenance and improvements of housing in remote Indigenous communities.”
Industry groups respond
Industry groups have welcomed the announcement, with Real Estate Institute of Australia President Adrian Kelly saying the private sector’s support of tenants through rental eviction moratoriums during the pandemic highlighted the need for reforms.
“Done well, social and affordable housing also provides an important stepping-stone to participating in private markets and home ownership, especially if housing is strategically built close to work, education and public transport,” Mr Kelly said.
“If a Future Fund-style model sustainably finances the gap for community housing providers without a top up from the public purse, then that is a sensible thing and puts the sector in good stead as well as builds on the existing success of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC).
“In particular housing support for families fleeing domestic violence situations is both most welcomed and much needed.”
Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison also welcomed the focus on affordable and social housing investment.
“Housing affordability is a dire issue for Australia and the Housing Australia Future Fund is an innovative approach to house less fortunate Australians,” Mr Morrison said.
“We need greater supply across the entire housing spectrum, and this investment would certainly be welcome by the industry.”
Although Mr Morrison welcomed the housing commitment, the Property Council described the speech as a missed opportunity for the Opposition to rule out changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax arrangements.
“Changing current negative gearing or CGT arrangements would be the wrong policy, at the wrong time and have a perverse impact on housing affordability,” he said.
He said Deloitte Access Economics analysis of the negative gearing and capital gains tax policies Labor had taken to the last two elections would have shrunk the economy by $1.5 billion.
‘Big, bold thinking’
The Australian Institute of Architects, who expressed disappointment in the Federal Government’s Budget for failing to take advantage of what the institute perceived as an opportunity for large-scale reform, also welcomed Labor’s policy.
CEO Julia Cambage said the proposed $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, with an annual investment return, had the potential to change the housing futures of tens of thousands of Australians for generations to come.
“For too long we have seen successive governments tinker around the edges of social and affordable housing policy,” Ms Cambage said.
“At the same time, Australia’s homelessness and housing affordability crisis has steadily worsened.
“Big, bold new thinking is needed to turn this around. This is what the Institute has been calling for over many years now.
“It’s what many of our members are focused on, pioneering new models, new partnerships, new ways to make our homes more sustainable and more affordable.”
“Housing is a fundamental human right, and we welcome the Opposition Leader’s recognition of this in his budget reply speech tonight.
“The Institute particularly welcomes the focus on constructing new social and affordable housing for the most vulnerable and most in-need sectors of our community.”