ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Feds warned - “Don’t backtrack on housing” - 6 point plan points to viable reform

26 April 2017

The ACT Council of Social Service has supported calls for the Federal Government to address the housing affordability crisis affecting millions across the country and has joined calls for the government to deliver on early promising indications that it is prepared to invest in housing in next month’s Federal Budget. 

“We’re really concerned by media reports over the weekend that the government might be cooling off on its commitment to finally do something about the housing affordability crisis in Australia”, said ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar. 

“The truth is that we can’t afford to leave this issue on the backburner yet again. We have a crisis in capital cities and in regions due to unaffordable rental prices. Certainly we have a problem in the ACT where tens of thousands of residents experience financial hardship and become homeless.   

“Tomorrow Canberrans will wake up to another report on rental affordability with the latest Anglicare national rental affordability snapshot due for release. Last year’s snapshot showed there were only two appropriate properties affordable to a person who derived their income from a Centrelink benefit, excluding the Aged Pension, of 1497 rentals advertised for ACT and Queanbeyan. The 2011 Census found the ACT had the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia. Recently median house prices also broke $700,000 for the first time. How many reports will it take to spur some action?

Releasing today its 6 point Housing Australia's People: A Serious Plan, ACOSS and National Shelter set out a comprehensive evidence based package of reforms that would deliver growth in social and affordable housing for people on low and modest incomes and take the heat out of the open housing market for all. The ACOSS-National Shelter plan includes measures to:

  1. Slow the growth in home prices and rents by reforming tax breaks like Capital Gains Tax and negative gearing that encourage speculation in property prices. Policies that add to home prices, such as allowing people to use superannuation to buy or invest in housing, should be avoided.
  2. Re-invest in social housing through the NAHA, with clear accountability for States to expand and properly maintain social housing (public and community) for people with low incomes.
  3. Improve the incomes of people relying on social security payments, especially the $38 a day Newstart Allowance and Rent Assistance. Consider higher Rent Assistance payments in the most expensive areas.
  4. Encourage private investment in social housing through a social housing finance corporation (bond aggregator) to provide low cost credit, and a new rental housing investment incentive for affordable housing for low and modest income-earners to replace ‘negative gearing’. 
  5. We welcome the Government’s and Labor’s support for a bond aggregator but this alone will not make social housing sustainable: direct public investment and Rent Assistance must be increased.
  6. Funding for homelessness services must be secured for at least five years, and innovations like ‘housing first’ strategies and better links with social housing should be promoted.
  7. States should work with the Commonwealth and Local Government to release land for affordable housing through ‘inclusionary zoning’ and progressively replace housing Stamp Duties (which make it harder to buy a first home or move house) with a Land Tax extending to owner-occupied properties.

“As we enter the Budget period, ACTCOSS has also contacted Treasurer Scott Morrison’s office today, again urging them to guarantee $1.3billion funding under the National Affordability Housing Agreement. In 2016 just 28 services provided crisis accommodation, case management, counselling and emergency aid to 4652 Canberrans who were either homeless or at risk of homelessness. Around 40% of these people received assistance to sustain their housing and prevent them falling into homelessness”, Ms Helyar said.

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.


Related reading:

ACOSS and National Shelter: Housing Australia's People: A Serious Plan