ACT Independent Senator David Pocock is joining with the community and residential housing sector in calling for agreement to be reached to pass the package of housing legislation currently before the senate.
This includes support for key amendments, notably a capacity to periodically increase the $500m annual cap on disbursements from the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) and indexing to preserve the fund’s real value into the future.
Giving the responsible Minister the power, via disallowable instrument, to periodically increase the annual cap will ensure that if the HAFF does well, additional earnings can be invested in more social and affordable rental homes.
The Future Fund’s 10-year return is 9.7%, well above the 5% enshrined in this legislation.
“It makes no sense for the government to have to come back to the parliament and amend the legislation every time the HAFF has a good year,” Senator Pocock said.
“Indexation of the cap is also crucial to attracting the investment we need into new social and affordable rental homes at scale.”
Indexing the cap conservatively at 2.5% per annum would provide $6.3 billion extra over the 25-year tenure of proposed availability payments, and more if the cap is increased over time.
Whereas a non-indexed $500m cap would provide $12bn in nominal income over 25 years, an indexed cap would provide upwards of $18.3bn in total.
Senator Pocock called for good faith negotiations, as there have been on other contested pieces of legislation in this term of parliament, and a genuine willingness to consider sensible amendments.
Feedback provided by expert stakeholders during consultation on the exposure draft legislation and the subsequent Senate committee inquiry into the bills saw a number of common recommendations emerge.
These recommendations strengthen the operation of the bills, enhancing the capacity of the HAFF to better meet the scale of the housing crisis engulfing Australia.
“The housing crisis facing Australians has worsened dramatically in the two years since Labor first announced this suite of housing measures,” Senator Pocock said.
“Rental vacancies are at record lows, while rents are at record highs and the shortage of social and affordable rental housing resulting from long-term underinvestment is acute.
“Homelessness is on the rise, as is the number of people, including mortgage holders, living in housing stress.
“From day one I have backed calls from the right across the residential and community housing sector for more ambition when it comes to the Housing Australia Future Fund. But I have also been clear that I’m hearing from my community that they want to see legislation pass that will start building houses.”
Senator Pocock is seeking support on 11 amendments in total across the three bills including doubling the size of the HAFF to $20 billion in line with its original design by the Grattan Institute. This will allow the Government to make a bigger contribution to dealing with the scale of the housing crisis and is closer to the $21 billion Medical Research Future Fund and $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.
He will also move other amendments, summarised below:
Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023
- Enable the Minister to issue a disallowable instrument to increase the annual limit above the current cap of $500m
- Provide for the value of the fund to be maintained in real terms by indexing the annual limit
- Ensure that payments approved by the Minister are done so on the explicit advice of Housing Australia
- Broaden the Housing Minister’s delegation powers to senior officials at Housing Australia (as well as Treasury senior officials who are already included in the bill)
- Bring forward the date for the first review of the HAFF to 1 July 2026 (from 31 December 2028) enabling the government to consider whether the size of the fund should be increased or other change made to its operations
National Housing Supply and Affordability Council Bill 2023
- Ensure the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council includes at least one member with qualifications or direct experience in social and community housing and in specialist disability accommodation.
- Enable Housing Australia staff to provide secretariat services to the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.
Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill 2023
- Restore Housing Australia’s capacity to conduct research support in performing its functions and in response to any requests from the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council
- Require a review of Housing Australia’s operations following the completion of the National Housing and Homelessness Plan – or after two years. This will enable consideration of whether Housing Australia should be tasked to perform additional functions to assist in the delivery of the plan
- Require a review of the guarantee as recommended by the 2020 independent review of NHFIC.