Community experts release national plan to tackle housing affordability crisis - ACOSS

25 March 2015

Peak community and housing groups today called on the Commonwealth Government to work with them in developing a national housing strategy to address the worsening housing affordability crisis in Australia. The groups, including the Australian Council of Social Service, National Shelter, Homelessness Australia, the Community Housing Federation of Australia and the National Association of Tenant Organisations, today released ‘An Affordable Housing Reform Agenda' which outlines reform priorities to achieve an efficient and affordable housing system that strengthens productivity and participation.

Priorities include:

  • Reforming the tax treatment of housing to remove distortions and improve affordability;
  • Public and private investment in new affordable housing stock to address the shortfall in affordable housing stock;
  • Reform of urban planning, land and building regulation to retain, promote and create affordable housing;
  • Increasing the maximum rate and improving indexation of Commonwealth Rent Assistance to relieve rental stress;
  • Reforming tenancy protections to provide more security for renters; and
  • Adequate and consistent funding for homelessness services to ensure we meet our goal of halving homelessness by 2020.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO, of the Australian Council of Social Service said:
"It is simply unacceptable that four in five private rental households in the lowest 20% of incomes are in unaffordable housing, paying more than 30% of income in rent. A further 30% of the second lowest quintile is also experiencing housing stress.

"The reality is that the housing supply shortfall is becoming a serious brake on productivity. The current policy and tax mix distorts investment decisions, is a barrier to workforce participation and mobility and contributes to house price inflation leading to greater inequality and social exclusion.

"The lack of affordable housing in Australia is taking a serious human and economic toll. We need to start thinking about housing as a national infrastructure priority to maximise its potential to contribute to economic growth, productivity and participation.

"The twin reviews of the federation and taxation provide an opportunity for us to grapple with key aspects of current housing policy failure. Reforms on these fronts must be complemented by significant but cost-effective investment to increase supply and relieve rental stress."

Glenda Stevens, CEO, Homelessness Australia said:
"It is pleasing to see the government extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness for another two years, providing much needed certainty for services, especially those supporting women affected by domestic violence and young homeless people. However, we cannot forget other groups of people sleeping rough and with nowhere to go."

"We know that homelessness and housing are inextricably linked. Homelessness cannot be solved if we have nowhere suitable, safe and affordable for people to live. Each day, while the government dithers and discusses, 399 additional people come to homelessness services for assistance. By far the greatest request is for somewhere to sleep. People will remain homeless while there is insufficient suitable housing for them.

"A safe and permanent home underpins all the functions of our society. Living in a car, a tent or on the street, couch surfing or a family crowded into one room, means children are at risk of disengaging from school, young people ‘drop out' and people get sick and cannot access the basic services a country like ours should provide.

"On any one night, in 2013-14, more than 7,000 people spent their previous night sleeping in crisis accommodation. Each day homelessness agencies closed 414 cases of which only 67% resulted in stable housing outcomes."

Adrian Pisarski, Executive Officer, National Shelter said:
"The crisis in affordable housing is now so deep it cannot be far short of catastrophic. Too many households now live in substandard, marginal housing and we have persistent market failure. We need a strategy to recast government programs, taxes and other incentives to create scale investment from institutions in social and affordable housing.

"Governments, community organisations and the private sector must partner to create new ways to leverage investment in affordable housing at scale. Through partnership, innovation, investment and strategic reform we can meet this challenge and unlock the economic and social dividends of secure, affordable and stable housing for all."

Deb Pippen, from the National Association of Tenant Organisations said:
"This worsening picture also highlights the vulnerable position of tenants across the country, their experience in their homes and the inadequacy of laws to protect them from substandard and insecure housing.

"If we as a community are concerned about the most disadvantaged members of society we must ensure that tenancy laws guarantee that everyone has access to secure housing that is of a fair standard."

Carol Croce, CEO, the Community Housing Federation of Australia said:
"For too long the crisis in affordable housing has been relegated to the 'back burner' of the national policy agenda.

"Our housing agenda provides a wide-ranging blueprint for needed reform. What's needed now is the political will and commitment to bring affordable housing to the forefront of national debate and action."

Media contacts:
Cassandra Goldie (ACOSS) - 0419 626 155
Glenda Stevens (Homelessness Australia) - 0405 900 360
Adrian Pisarski (National Shelter) - 0417 975 270
Carol Croce (CHFA) - 0402 017 557
Deb Pippen (NATO) - 0407 432 390

Download: Summary - An Affordable Housing Reform Agenda

Download full paper: An Affordable Housing Reform Agenda