- National Cabinet pledged $3 billion to build 1.2M more homes.
- Most industry bodies believed that the move is a step in the right direction.
- Others highlighted concerns that not enough was being done to address the housing crisis
Industry bodies Real Estate Buyers Agents Association of Australia (REBAA), the Property Council of Australia (PCA), and Master Builders Australia (MBA) have issued strong words of support for the National Cabinet’s pledge to build 1.2 million new homes to combat the housing crisis.
The organisations issued statements approving the federal government’s efforts to tackle the supply-side issues plaguing Australia’s housing market, which they believed was the root cause of the crisis.
The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) and the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) also supported the National Cabinet’s announcement, particularly for the improved planning laws and rental reforms.
However, not all organisations viewed the federal government’s announcement as optimistically, with the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) citing concerns over Australia’s ability to deliver new housing stock, and Everybody’s Home arguing that not enough was done to protect renters from the worsening housing crisis.
What is the National Cabinet doing?
The National Cabinet announced this week that states and territories are entitled to a “new home bonus” of around $3 billion if they help the nation reach its new target of 1.2 million additional homes being built over the next five years.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stated that, under this revised plan, jurisdictions will receive $15,000 for each home built over the previous target of 1 million homes over five years from July 2024.
The federal government also announced a $500 million fund to support local and state territories that build homes in well-located areas.
In addition, the national cabinet agreed to reforms on renters’ rights, limiting rent increases to only once per year and requiring landlords to give “genuine reasonable grounds for eviction” when terminating a lease midway.
“REBAA welcomes the commitment to the significant increase of housing supply and looks forward to seeing more detail on the harmonisation of rental policies around the nation,” REBAA president, Cate Bakos said.
“Renters are being forced out of areas, rental prices are soaring, and homelessness is a harsh reality for so many.”
Bakos commented that the National Cabinet’s announcement demonstrated that they understood that the crisis was mainly fuelled by a significant mismatch between tenant demand and supply.
“And with any changing ratio, the resultant impact is upwards pressure on rental
prices,” she said.
She went on to state that the present situation was dire for renters, often having to make multiple rental application attempts, offering higher rents than advertised to beat the competition and secure accommodation out of desperation.
Bakos said little would have been achieved to support the plight of renters if governments had continued to disincentivise private residential property investment and demonise landlords.
“That’s why the range of priorities announced after the National Cabinet will be well received by the wider industry,” Bakos said.
“It shows that all levels of government are committed to increasing the supply of housing, rather than promoting punitive rental reforms that would see more investors exit the market and put further upward pressure on rents.”
Property Council chief executive Mike Zorbas praised the National Cabinet’s commitment to increasing the housing supply for home buyers and renters in Australia.
Zorbas said the Property Council had long-championed national competition-style payments for states that succeed at city planning and housing supply performance.
“National Cabinet is tackling our housing supply deficit in a coordinated way for the first time in a long time,” said Zorbas.
“Today, National Cabinet has taken a big-picture approach to housing supply improvements that, if successful, will boost access to housing for all Australians.
“The New Home Bonus, the Housing Support Program, the National Planning Reform Blueprint, the Social Housing Accelerator and the rental deal all strike a sensible balance in progressing toward affordable new housing supply.
“Decades of strategic failure by governments has left us an unacceptably land-rich, housing-poor nation. There is a deficit of supply in social, key worker and at market housing across the country.
“Our state planning systems don’t do what every Australian needs them to do – take a statewide view and accept nationwide accountability for providing all Australians with the chance to have a roof over their heads.
“Hopefully today marks the first day of a strategic and accountable system for delivering the housing Australians need.
“Adequate housing supply, based on the supply of adequately zoned and serviced brownfields and green fields land remains the most important factor in driving down buying and renting costs and prices across the market cycles.
“The next piece in the puzzle is for all parties in the Senate to support the passage of the Housing Australia Future Fund to support the delivery new social and affordable housing without delay,” said Zorbas.
“All levels of government last year acknowledged the imperative of housing supply with the establishment of the Housing Accord, and now there are real commitments on the table,” said MBA CEO Denita Wawn.
“Governments across all levels must now implement the measures announced today as a matter of urgency.
“Master Builders had forecast that we need at least 200,000 dwellings constructed a year in order to meet demand.
“The revised new national target of building 1.2 million well-located homes over five years is welcome news and shows commitment to go above the baseline requirement.
“We need to go to the root of the supply problem, getting projects off the ground which are lagging due to a combination of high costs, a declining investment appetite from rising interest rates, and delays in approvals.
“A national planning reform blueprint that looks at the key pinch-points in the building process from planning, zoning and land release will be a key pillar in addressing our housing supply challenges.
“The New Home Bonus and Housing Support Program will assist governments to undertake the array of reforms necessary to boost supply and offset some of these costs.
“Master Builders has long advocated for a federal incentive payment program that looks at planning delays, developer charges, zoning restrictions and housing infrastructure investment.
“The cost of building homes has been exacerbated over recent years with unnecessary delays and barriers encountered on their journey to completion. This includes planning impediments, lengthy approval processes and high developer charges on new land developments.
“Master Builders had previously modelled that these charges and delays can add up to 30% to the cost of a new greenfield housing development.
“The focus on supply must be across the entire housing market that will facilitate movement through the housing spectrum, enabling lower-cost housing to become more affordable.”
Co-convener of Labor for housing, Julijana Todorovic, and national secretary, CFMEU construction and general division, Zach Smith, released a joint response to the National Cabinet’s announcement.
“This National Cabinet announcement on housing is welcome and is to be congratulated.
“We’re delighted to see the announcement of better planning laws which support inclusionary zoning, so social and affordable housing developments don’t get pushed to the fringes of our major cities.
“It is fantastic to see strong rental reforms, particularly no fault evictions, that will make a significant difference to the rights of renters.
“Likewise the focus on urban densification to boost housing in existing centres where there is established infrastructure rather than simply continuing urban sprawl is welcome.”
“These are a suite of serious reforms that, if implemented properly, give us the best chance yet of delivering affordable homes and reasonable rentals,” said UDIA president, Max Shifman.
“UDIA National congratulates government and National Cabinet for listening to our concerns and setting a shared direction that can deliver new housing supply and better affordability in line with our advocacy platform.”
While the AIA broadly welcomed the announcement, the body raised concerns over the ability to deliver.
“We commend leaders for making housing a priority,” Institute National President Stuart Tanner said.
“If these homes are delivered within the five-year timeline, it will help our housing supply issues considerably.
“We are, however, concerned about the ongoing inadequacy of social housing supply and Australia’s capacity to realistically deliver this volume of housing in the time available, given construction material and labour shortages.
“In addition, this housing stock should be delivered with quality and sustainability as mandatory.”
Everybody’s Home response
Everybody’s Home spokesperson Maiy Azize was much more critical of the National Cabinet.
“This was a lost opportunity to protect renters from the worst of the housing crisis,” Azize said in her statement.
“Today’s agreement will not end unfair rent increases. Limiting increases to once a year won’t change anything for nine out of ten renters across the country, and has still seen rents spiral.
“Today’s agreement has not given us a concrete plan for no-cause evictions. With no timeline for change and no details on reasonable grounds, we cannot protect renters who are fearful of eviction now.
“There are only so many rent increases people can afford to cop, and Everybody’s Home will keep pushing for real limits on rent increases. We will keep pushing for a timeline to end no-cause evictions. And we will keep pushing for an end to Australia’s huge shortfall in social housing.
“Building generic homes is only half of the answer. We need a plan to end the social and affordable housing shortfall – or 640,000 families will remain in severe rental stress.
We have seen that leaders across the country have goodwill and good intentions. Now we need to turn those intentions into action.”