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New housing fund needs ongoing investment

Independent ACT Senator David Pocock has welcomed the release yesterday of exposure draft legislation to establish a new Housing Australia Future Fund and National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.

Senator Pocock said the acute and growing need for more social and affordable housing was one of the biggest challenges governments needed to work urgently to address. He welcomed the early engagement from federal Minister Julie Collins and consultative approach in releasing the draft bills for comment, while urging more ambition and greater capacity building.

“The magnitude of Australia’s housing crisis demands urgent action and national leadership,” Senator Pocock said.

“Making sure all Australians have access to housing they can afford means fundamentally reconsidering how we think about it in policy terms.

“Housing should not be viewed simply as a vehicle for wealth creation, it needs to be recognised for the fundamental human right it is.

“The establishment of a new national housing fund is very welcome but needs to go further if we are to stop Australia's affordability crisis getting worse.

“While an initial future fund investment of $10 billion delivering 30,000 homes over five years is a good start, even when added to the new supply contribution of states and territories it will only deliver a fraction of the existing unmet housing need.

“On a per capita basis in the ACT the new fund will deliver just over 100 homes a year in the face of a 3,100 dwelling shortfall.

“Part of the policy strength in the design of future fund is the largely neutral impact on the budget’s underlying cash balance.

“This creates a strong argument for building a mechanism into the legislation, beyond the five yearly reviews already flagged to measure adequacy, that enables the future fund to grow and be topped up over time.

“We know demand for social and affordable housing will remain strong and that there is so much catching up to do to address what is a huge backlog of people in desperate need.

“Recent natural disasters have exacerbated the already dire housing shortage and there are far too many Australians who will be spending this Christmas in their cars, caravans or tents.

“We have to do better, invest more and plan strategically to solve Australia’s social and affordable housing shortage.”

Senator Pocock said he looked forward to engaging constructively with stakeholders and government over the details of the legislation in coming weeks. He said the legislation marks a turning point and an opportunity to fundamentally reset national housing policy. 

“The establishment of a new National Housing Supply and Affordability Council supports a co-ordinated, evidence-based approach to the design and implementation of housing policy,” Senator Pocock said.

“With the creation of Housing Australia out of the old National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation there is also the chance to capacity build and coordinate research, skills and support for the new council in one centre of national leadership and excellence.

“It’s also really encouraging to see some strong transparency measures in these draft bills around the publication of terms of reference, reviews and reports.

“Strong oversight and clear guidelines for any grants paid to state and territory governments will also be important to maintaining the integrity of the new fund.”

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