HOUSING AGREEMENT RETREAT SHOWS MORRISON IS A DILETTANTE

20 Feb 2017

After saying ten days ago that the Turnbull Government would dump the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), putting its $250 million homelessness funding component under threat, Treasurer Scott Morrison has had to beat a hasty retreat.

After saying ten days ago that the Turnbull Government would dump the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), putting its $250 million homelessness funding component under threat, Treasurer Scott Morrison has had to beat a hasty retreat.

A report today that the Turnbull Government will quarantine the homelessness funding component of NAHA won’t make up for the $130 million in cuts to the National Partnership Agreement (NPAH) on Homelessness since the 2014-15 budget.

Labor in government reached agreement with the states and territories on NPAH in 2008. The NPAH for the first time provided funding certainty, matched by the states and territories for agreed targets, transparent funding and program design and agreed outcomes. It remains the most comprehensive investment and strategy to address homelessness in Australia's history. In its first five years it provided $1.1 billion in federal, state and territory funding.

Since coming to office, the Abbott and Turnbull governments have cut $130 million from NPAH and failed to provide funding certainty.

At the 2016 election, Labor pledged an additional $88 million to fund safe housing for women escaping domestic violence.

Mr Morrison is playing catch-up on affordable rental housing. If the community housing sector is to grow and make the contribution to the provision of affordable rental housing it needs durable, effective long-term policy and bipartisan support.

Labor will support well-designed policies that increase the supply of affordable rental housing. Making social housing an attractive investment for long-term institutional finance is an essential component in bridging the social housing finance gap and increasing supply.

The Coalition’s record on housing policy is abysmal:

  • It has cut $130 million of targeted, outcome-focussed funding from NPAH;
  • It abolished the National Housing Supply Council, established by Labor in 2007 which provided expert analysis and advice direct to government on the state of the housing sector. Since its abolition the government has been flying blind on housing policy.
  • It de-funded Homelessness Australia, National Shelter and the Federation of Community Housing Associations, effectively closing its eyes to sources of research and advice on homelessness.
  • It scrapped the National Rental Affordability Scheme; Australia’s first and only policy to leverage private investment in affordable rental housing on a national scale. NRAS was on track to deliver over 50,000 affordable rental homes.

Tackling housing unaffordability requires system-wide reform. Unaffordable owner-occupied housing drives rental housing unaffordability which in turn drives homelessness. Negative gearing and capital gains tax reform has to be on the table, along with supply side policies to tackle rental affordability and transparent, targeted, outcome-focussed funding to tackle homelessness.

Housing affordability needs a full-time, dedicated Housing Minister; not a Treasurer who dabbles in it every now and again. The Coalition has not had a dedicated Housing Minister since 1982. Every Labor government since 1945 has included a dedicated Housing Minister.  

Since 2013, the Abbott and Turnbull government have set the country back years when it comes to housing affordability. It is a mess.

MONDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2017