The Prime Minister has wasted no time in ensuring Australia’s social housing stock will meet the need. Image: Canva.
  • Industry bodies have widely welcomed the move
  • Funding will go to the States and Territories within the next two weeks
  • There is a unanimous call among industry for the Senate to pass the Housing Australia Future Fund

On Saturday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator.

The much-needed boost to social homes across the nation will hit the pockets of state governments shortly, and is expected to deliver thousands of homes.

“The $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator payment will be delivered to States and Territories within the next two weeks and will deliver thousands of new social rental homes across the country,” said Albanese.

“Every Australian deserves the security of a roof over their head, and my Government is taking steps to deliver more homes around the country.

“I met with every Premier and Chief Minister about this proposal yesterday, and we all agree securing more housing for more Australians is a key national priority.

The federal government said the states and territories will have some flexibility in how the scheme is implemented, including the construction of new homes, expanding existing programmes, and renovating or refurbishing existing but unliveable homes.

“We know that supply is an important part of addressing the housing challenges we inherited from the former Liberal government. This funding will help build more of the rental homes that Australia needs,” said Housing Minister Julie Collins.

“We could do even more if the Senate stopped blocking our $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) – the single biggest investment in social and affordable rental housing by a Federal Government in more than a decade.”

The urgency was clear this morning as several national housing, homelessness, and industry peak bodies met at Parliament House to call for an end to the delays in passing the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023.

Australia over 1 million homes behind

The Property Council of Australia (PCA) welcomed the announcement as a positive step in addressing the housing affordability crisis in Australia.

Recent estimates put Australia 1.3 million homes behind where we should be in the twenty years to 2021, relative to supply over the twenty years to 2001.

“For decades, Australia has not supplied enough social, key worker or at-market housing to keep up with demand, let alone apply downward pressure on prices,” said Property Council chief executive Mike Zorbas.

“This investment is a welcome addition to the 30,000-home promise of the Housing Australia Future Fund but we still need the Senate to pass the HAFF next week.

“One million new homes by 2029 should be a very modest target for a nation with our advantages but with further delays in the Senate and the deep declines in new apartment construction in particular, we may fall short.

“The Australian Government is attempting the challenging task of improving state performance in housing supply through a national housing accord while opening up customer-led housing choice for renters through levelling the playing field for build-to-rent housing investment.

Zorbas also called on decision makers to consider housing diversity as part of their arsenal of tools.

“The role of purpose-built student accommodation and retirement living communities in putting downward pressure on prices in the general rental market, as well as encouraging downsizing, should also be on the radar of decision-makers.”

HAFF delays unwelcome

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) has welcomed the Albanese Government’s new $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator as a breakthrough initiative that will directly drive new social and affordable housing and give Australia’s political leadership the impetus to get moving on the Housing Affordability Future Fund (HAFF).

The announcement today will see States and Territories get a direct cash injection of $2bn on a per capita basis to build or refurbish social housing and reform planning laws over the next two years. It will do this without jeopardising the estimated $4.2bn May surplus.

“This is a clever initiative that not only directly boosts housing supply at the most critical end of the spectrum and incentivises streamlined planning but also delivers a solution that all politicians can get behind to pass the HAFF without jeopardising an already fragile housing market,” said Max Shifman, UDIA National President.

UDIA said the initiative has come at a critical point for the housing market and not a moment too soon as there is now a clear, balanced pathway forward for the HAFF that answers the most material concerns across the political spectrum.

Dwelling commencements are down 21% on a 12-month rolling average and rental listings are down 32% on the long run average. The chronic lack of supply has seen housing land prices jump 24% since last year and national house rental pricing has grown 45% since March 2020.

Sales of national greenfield lots are down 49% with drops as high as 70% in some markets, but prices have only accelerated. Worst still, NHFIC predicts a dwelling shortfall of 21,260 per annum for at market housing, and 45,000 per annum for social/affordable.

UDIA also noted that every month that HAFF is delayed, we fall a further 500 homes behind the 30,000 dwelling target and the hill gets steeper to climb.

“Most importantly, the initiative shows the Government is not waiting around for Parliament to agree the HAFF and instead will get on with the job of boosting housing supply now,” said the Institute.

Some obstacles remain in the way of boosting housing supply

Master Builders Australia (MBA) has welcomed the $2 billion programme and is calling on the Senate to pass the Housing Australia Future Fund next week.

“The Accelerator is a crucial step towards addressing the persistent issue of housing affordability in the country,” said MBA CEO Denita Wawn.

“The Federal Government’s dedication to collaborative efforts with industry stakeholders, as well as state and territory governments, to tackle the housing supply predicament is commendable.

“Master Builders forecasts we will fall short of the 200,000 homes needed a year to meet demand.

“Many obstacles, such as planning impediments and lengthy approvals processes, prevent the construction of necessary homes.

“To improve housing affordability, all levels of government must continue to work together to implement continuous land supply through rezoning and planning, and taxes on the development and buying process should be reduced.

“Over the last week we have seen various state governments make announcements that highlight the importance of tackling housing supply and affordability challenges.

“We must continue to pull all levers at our disposal. Master Builders urges the Senate to adopt a pragmatic approach in support of sensible reform and promptly pass the housing legislation next week.

“By working together and setting politics aside, government and industry can pave the way for a future where affordable housing is within reach for all Australians,” said Ms Wawn.

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