PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION REPORT REVEALS TURNBULL GOVERNMENT’S HOUSING PRIVATISATION GOALS

23 Sep 2016

The Abbott/Turnbull Government’s Productivity Commission report into its own Harper Review of Human Services reveals the Government’s intentions in housing – defund and privatise in the name of ‘choice’.

The Abbott/Turnbull Government’s Productivity Commission report into its own Harper Review of Human Services reveals the Government’s intentions in housing – defund and privatise in the name of ‘choice’.

The Productivity Commission report acknowledges that demand for social housing far outstrips supply, highlighting the Government’s failure and inaction on housing affordability, and its most acute manifestation, homelessness.

Any suggestion that the solution to the lack of appropriate affordable housing is more NSW Premier Baird-style sell-offs of public housing stock defies common sense and the views of stakeholders in the public and social housing sector.

Those on the front line of the housing affordability crisis are demanding the Turnbull Government fund the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH), invest in more public housing and make it easier for institutional investors to build more affordable housing.

The Turnbull Government has failed to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) beyond its June 2017 expiry date.

The last Census figures showed that 1 in 200, or 105,000 Australians, are homeless on any one night, with around 6000 people sleeping rough, approximately 400 of them children.

The Federal Government has also failed to commit to funding the Reconnect youth homelessness program beyond 2017. Reconnect provides support to young people experiencing homelessness.

The Productivity Commission report effectively contradicts itself in recommending greater ‘choice’ for tenants where there is a lack of supply. International comparisons are meaningless – Australia has much lower density of public housing, around 5% compared to the UK 20% or Netherlands 30%.

  • There are currently not enough social housing properties to meet demand, limiting the housing choices available to social housing tenants. Nonetheless, approaches implemented internationally allow social housing tenants greater choice of home. Reform options could be explored in Australia to address supply constraints and increase the housing options available for prospective social housing tenants

 

Addressing supply constraints is the priority for the sector and for Labor.

Instead of selling off more public housing in the name of ‘choice’, the Turnbull Government should support Labor’s policy of addressing the distortion in the housing market caused by over-generous tax breaks for investors in existing housing stock.

The Australian Urban Housing Research Institute (AHURI found this year that “that competition and consumer choice in housing assistance depends on an increase in affordable housing supply”[1]. AHURI warns that “there are significant risks associated with consumer choice strategies”.

Investing in affordable housing has a broad economic and fiscal benefit. Recent research from AHURI and the Council to Homeless Persons shows that the Turnbull Government’s lack of commitment to tackling homelessness is costing federal and state health budgets tens of millions every year.

The Government must repudiate the Productivity Commission report on the Harper Review and commit to expanding and investing in public housing, instead of threatening to privatise and defund the sector in the name of ‘choice’ or contestability.

THURSDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2016

 

[1] http://www.ahuri.edu.au/evidence-in-action/news/inquiry-competition-and-consumer-choice-in-housing-assistance