Expert warns federal government's new housing policy won’t work

Expert warns federal government's new housing policy won’t work

The $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund is set to pass parliament after a deal with the Greens. An RMIT social housing expert warns it won’t solve the problem – not even close.

Liam Davies, lecturer in housing and urban planning

“Investment in social housing in Australia is very welcome, but the new Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) is unlikely to provide enough support to sufficiently increase supply.

“The HAFF is a $10 billion fund which will spend its interest earnings on social housing. It is like a term-deposit for social housing, where the money will not actually be spent, just the investment earnings.

“According to the government, the $10 billion HAFF will support construction of 30,000 dwellings over the next five years. This is an average of 6,000 dwellings per annum.

“The social housing system has not grown at the same rate as the general housing stock for many years. According to the Productivity Commission, between 2011 and 2021 social housing shrunk from 4.6% of all dwellings to 3.7% of all dwellings. In proportional terms Australia has almost 69,000 fewer social housing dwellings today than ten years ago. That is an average proportionate decline of 6,900 dwellings per annum.

“Meanwhile, Productivity Commission data shows that the waitlist has increased from 140,578 in 2018 to 174,624 in 2022.

“National Cabinet has agreed to a target of 1.2 million new dwellings over the next five years. To maintain current social housing stock of 3.7%, around 45,000 of these dwellings would need to be social. This is much more than what the HAFF is promising.

“To get social housing stock back to 2011 levels, we need around 124,000 social housing dwellings over the next five years (69,000 to cover the shortfall and 55,000 to maintain social housing as 4.6% of stock). This is over four times what the HAFF is promising.

“Evidently the HAFF will not get us close to where we need to be. At best, the HAFF will slow down the decline of social housing in Australia.

“Much more investment is required to deliver the amount of social housing Australia needs, and while the HAFF won’t hurt, it won’t come close to solving the problem. What would make a real difference, would be a commitment to spending the whole $10 billion on housing, not just the interest.”

Liam Davies is an academic in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. His research looks at state and commonwealth government policies that affect affordable housing.


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14 September 2023


14 September 2023


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