10 Feb 2017

A report today that the Turnbull Government is planning to dump the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) in the May Budget sends a clear message that the government is doubling down on its attacks on low income households and the most disadvantaged people in the community and that it simply does not have a plan for housing affordability.

According to the report today in The Australian newspaper, the Turnbull government  has “hinted” it plans to dump NAHA because it is not providing appropriate accountability or performance measures on how the States and Territories spend the $1.3 billion a year the federal government contributes to housing assistance under the agreement.

The Secretary of the Department of Social Services told a Budget Estimates hearing last October:

“Again, the issue is that is a very high level and quite general agreement. It does not have a great deal of specificity about what the money is used for. It identifies priorities but ultimately it is the states and territories who determine how that funding is used.”

The Government should be renegotiating the agreement so that it places performance and accountability measures on the States and Territories for their spending of federal money. This agreement should be improved, not scrapped.  

Labor expects the States and Territories to make real progress on increasing social housing stock and reducing the rate of homelessness.

But rather than tackle the underlying problem, the Turnbull Government intends to dump the NAHA.

Dumping NAHA will mark another assault on funding for homelessness services from the Turnbull government. NAHA includes a homelessness component of $250 million a year.

Dumping NAHA puts this funding at risk and comes on top of the $44 million a year the Abbott government cut from homelessness funding under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness in its discredited 2014-15 Budget.

Labor stands by its record of providing Commonwealth housing assistance in government between 2007 and 2013.

Labor established the National Rental Affordability Scheme which, if it hadn’t been scrapped by the Abbott government, was on track to provide 50,000 new affordable rental homes.

Labor’s Social Housing Initiative (SHI) which began in February 2009 led to the construction of 19,740 new social housing homes and paid for long overdue repairs and maintenance of 80,537 existing social housing homes. The SHI provided 9,000 full-time construction industry jobs during the global financial crisis.

Labor began implementation of the recommendations of its homelessness White Paper, The Road Home, had a homelessness reduction target and was providing increased financial support for prevention and early intervention to stop people becoming homeless.

The Turnbull Government’s record on housing and homelessness policy is abysmal. It refuses to do anything about housing affordability, it has cut homelessness funding, it scrapped the National Rental Affordability Scheme, it de-funded housing and homelessness NGOs, it has no Minister for Housing and now it intends to dump NAHA.

The government has a lot of explaining to do. Instead of dropping hints, it has to explain how it intends to provide Commonwealth housing assistance to low income households and the most vulnerable in the community.