Community, business and housing leaders call on ACT Government to address housing crisis in next Budget

19 May 2022

Joint media release, ACTCOSS, Canberra Business Chamber, Property Council ACT, ACT Shelter and the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA).

Leaders of Canberra’s community, housing and business sectors have today called on the ACT Government to address the ACT’s housing crisis and commit to further action in the 2022-23 ACT Budget.

In recent weeks, the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), the Canberra Business Chamber, the Property Council, ACT Shelter and the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) have all made submissions to the ACT Government’s Budget Consultation in the lead up to the release of the ACT Budget on 2 August 2022.

A common theme across all the organisation’s submissions was the cost of living crisis and the unaffordability of housing for many Canberrans.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “Over 38,000 Canberrans are living below the poverty line, including 9,000 children. The recent increases in cost of living have been staggering and disproportionately affect every facet of life for people on low incomes.

“Households in the lowest income quintile spend over 55% of their income on housing, food and transport. These are the people hit hardest by these worsening conditions.”

By far the biggest cost for people – whether employed in the public service, business or community sectors – is housing. The Territory has the second highest average prices for property in the country and the highest average rents for a unit or flat.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Mr Graham Catt explained: “As the economy recovers from the pandemic, businesses big and small are struggling to find and keep the workers and skills they need. There are fantastic companies here with great opportunities, but the cost and lack of housing is a major deterrent to attracting workers, and often to keeping them, in Canberra.

“That means small businesses can’t grow and create more jobs, or they employ staff based elsewhere who make no contribution to the ACT, or in the worst-case scenario they simply leave the territory to set up elsewhere.”

ACT Shelter CEO Mr Travis Gilbert continued: “Over the past 12 months our already unaffordable housing market has become dire for both first home buyers and renters. People earning less than $40,000 are now spending so much of their wage on rent, they are on the edge of the after-housing poverty line after paying the landlord. The flow on effect is now self-evident.

“The number of Canberrans on the waiting list for social housing has increased by more than 20% over the same period, with more than 3000 Canberrans now waiting and hoping for a secure home.”

Andrew Hannan, CHIA National Chair and ACT Regional Committee Chair said: “Our community housing provider members have an important role to play in investing alongside the ACT Government to help deliver on the Governing Agreement commitments to grow social and affordable rental supply.

“A step growth in supply is needed, and like in other jurisdictions members cannot grow this supply by getting new development projects off the ground absent a subsidy from Government, such as discounted land, co-investment, and planning concessions.”

Adina Cirson, ACT Executive Director of the Property Council said: “With our median house prices at record highs and our residential vacancy rates at record lows – we must act now to ensure that we have the right types of housing where and when we need it.

“This means we need a good supply of land release in the inner suburbs as well as greenfield development areas and planning controls that allow for a diversity of housing choice to meet the needs of our growing and ageing population. We all need to work together to start addressing the crisis that is here right now.”

Dr Campbell concluded: “The Government’s Housing Strategy, 2018-2028 and 10th Parliamentary and Governing Agreement commits to increasing the supply of social housing and affordable rentals. But its targets only scratch the surface of unmet need.

“The Agreement commits to providing 600 new affordable rentals, against a modelled need of 3,400 more dwellings, and 400 new social houses against a modelled need of 3,100.

“As leaders in the community, business and housing sectors we collectively call on the Government to urgently review its Housing Strategy. The community, housing and business sectors are ready to contribute their ideas and expertise to the review.

“A lot has changed since 2018. There is low-cost financing available nationally which has financed over 15,000 new or improved affordable dwellings in other states and territories. The ACT Government has a new build-to-rent scheme which could significantly boost affordable rentals if tender decisions prioritise this – any subsidy should only be provided to community housing providers who are uniquely placed to deliver affordable rental over the long-term.

“Canberra needs an updated Strategy with revised targets that address the housing crisis so that all Canberrans can find a home, and our city remains an attractive place to move to for employment. The Strategy needs to be accompanied by an implementation plan that builds on existing Government schemes and contains new commitments and enhanced investment, especially to boost the community housing stock.”

The ACTCOSS Budget Submission contains further detail on investment and action recommended for the Government to address the housing crisis. It also contains detail on ACTCOSS’s other budget priorities and has been developed in consultation with ACTCOSS’s membership. It can be found here.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact:

Graham Catt, CEO, Canberra Business Chamber, on 0414 980 944

Adina Cirson, Executive Director, Property Council, on 0429 579 972

Andrew Hannan, National Chair & ACT Regional Chair, CHIA, on 0404 861 896

Travis Gilbert, CEO, ACT Shelter, on 0437 166 610

Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617.

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