ADDRESS TO THE AUSTRALIAN HOUSING INDUSTRY AWARDS

7 Jul 2017

ADDRESS TO THE AHI PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE IN HOUSING AWARDS

ADDRESS TO THE AHI PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE IN HOUSING AWARDS

SYDNEY

THURSDAY, 6 JULY 2017

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

First of all could I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I also acknowledge Andrew, Rebecca and Councillor Tallis.

I am delighted to be here this evening to be part of the recognition of the valuable contribution made by all of you to address the issue of housing affordability in this country.

As Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, I have met with many of you over the last year, both privately and through the two housing roundtables I have held. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to the sector and for your valuable input into Labor’s policy development.

While talking with a couple of you before this address tonight, I heard people talking about a house being a human right.

I agree with that. For the majority of people a house is their home, not a commodity to be traded on the market.

The census data released last week confirms what many of us already know. There is a crisis in housing affordability.   Fewer people own their own home, and fewer people own their home outright. More people are renting and they are paying higher rents.

Analysis of the census figures shows that up to one third of people are in housing stress, including both renters and those paying off their mortgage.

Despite long-term growth in the private rental market since the 1990s, there is insufficient housing stock in the private rental market for low-to-moderate income households.

If allowing negative gearing for existing homes was meant to increase the number of affordable rental properties, it has been a spectacular failure.

On the latest data available from the National Housing Supply Council prior to its abolition in 2013 by the Abbott Government, there is an estimated national shortage of affordable and available rental stock for low income households of 500,000 dwellings. That figure is likely to be higher by now.

Providing a robust, sustainable and innovative social housing system is a fundamental part of the solution to the housing affordability crisis. As you may know, Australia’s social housing sector is very small by international standards, representing around 4.4 percent of the country’s housing stock. By comparison, social housing accounts for nearly 20% of the UK’s housing stock.

In this context, the recent Productivity Commission report which talks about competition, contestability and user choice, seems far from the reality of Australia’s housing market.

The Community Housing Sector has great potential for growth and can make a significant contribution to addressing the crisis, but it needs support.

Addressing the complex problem of making housing more affordable and developing effective solutions for change requires a government which is committed to effective consultation as well as having the vision and policies that assist Australians into secure and affordable housing.  This is not the case in Australia right now.

A recent review by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute found that ‘housing is not conceived within the machinery of government as a prominent economic or policy area, despite its very large asset value’ and that ‘there is evidence that this neglect is deliberate on the part of the present Federal Government’. 

In contrast Labor has a plan to improve housing affordability, increase financial stability, reduce homelessness and boost jobs, including:

 

  • Reforming negative gearing so that deductions can only be claimed on newly built homes. This will increase supply and create construction jobs.

     

  • Reforming capital gains tax concessions, cutting it by half to 25%, which will reduce incentives for investing in property only in order to realise capital gains.

     

  • Limiting direct borrowing by self-managed superannuation funds - limited recourse borrowing in SMSF’s have exploded in recent years – from about $2.5 billion in 2012 to more than $24 billion today. This represents an 860% increase in limited recourse borrowing by SMSF’s in just 4 ½ years.

  •  Facilitating COAG processes to introduce a uniform vacant property tax across all major cities.

     

  • Increasing fees for overseas investors buying Australian real estate, and increase penalties when they break the law.

 

 

  • Establishing a bond aggregator to give Community Housing Providers access to cheaper finance for new affordable rental housing. On its own this is insufficient to meet the funding gap that is created when community housing seeks to provide homes for the working poor and social security recipients.

     

  • Boosting homelessness support for vulnerable Australians by $88 million over 2 years. Of particular concern is the plight of many older women, and young people coming out of state care.

 

 

  • Achieving better results from the National Affordable Housing Agreement including better rights for renters, planning reform, inclusionary zoning, and accelerated land release.

     

  •  Re-establishing the National Housing Supply Council and reinstating a Minister for Housing.

 

 

These policies will help level the playing field between home buyers and investors. They will remove some of the distortions in the housing market which drive investment for capital gain, rather than investment in securing homes for people to live in. Uniform vacant property taxes are a good step towards better utilisation of the more than 1 million properties that sit empty each night.

These policies will make a substantive difference to the lives of Australians struggling to find and keep a roof over their heads, and we will have more to say on housing in the lead up to the next election.

An area of particular interest to me is the Farmer Review recently completed in the UK. This review looked at the capabilities and efficiency of the home building industry in the UK. It discovered that there were significant problems with skills, training and productivity in the UK industry. It is interesting that there seems to be an unsubstantiated view that the home building industry in Australia is extremely efficient because it is predominantly small businesses with limited involvement of the trade union movement. 

I am not convinced by this argument and instead of the government continually attacking the trade union movement they should undertake a critical analysis of the capabilities of the home building sector.

Improving skills and productivity is essential in providing lower cost housing in the community sector.

Another area being considered in the UK is offsite construction of homes through modern modular manufacturing techniques. There is huge potential in Australia to create a new industry that can provide cost effective, modern and environmentally sustainable manufactured homes.

Now I want to congratulate all the nominees and the winners this evening. I am looking forward to continuing to work with you all into the future to ensure that every Australian will have a secure and affordable place to call their home.

ENDS