Yesterday the minister responsible for housing confirmed his only housing affordability strategy – a “working group” – is nothing but a stalling tactic to put the issue off the agenda until after the next budget and potentially the election.
The working group will be made up entirely of government bureaucrats who won’t report until 30 June, 2016, well after the next budget is due to be handed down.
Embarrassingly, this working group announcement which will provide advice to government on what to do about housing affordability issues in Australia comes after more than two years of the Abbott/Turnbull government, three housing ministers, millions of dollars in cuts to programs and no housing policy to speak of.
The Turnbull government has a very poor record on housing policy and its disappointing to see that after more than two years in government the only decision they are prepared to take is to convene meetings, release an issues paper and delay any real action or solutions for another day.
Since 2013 the Abbott/Turnbull government has done nothing but cut funds and capacity from programs designed to address housing affordability in Australia. They have;
- Cut $132 million to homelessness services over 3 years
- abolished the National Rental Affordability Scheme and cancelled Round five of that scheme
- cut funding to Homelessness Australia, National Shelter and Community Housing Federation of Australia
- axed the Housing Help for Seniors program
- abolished the National Housing Supply Council
- disbanded the COAG select Council on Housing and Homelessness
The lack of affordable housing is something that affects millions of Australians every day whether it be young people who can’t afford to enter the housing market, families living in severe housing stress as they have to spend more and more of their income on unaffordable rents, people with a disability with little choice of suitable housing or women and children escaping domestic violence with find themselves with nowhere to go.
The Minister’s own issues paper indicates that there are 657,000 low income households across Australia experiencing rental stress and 318,000 low income households experiencing mortgage stress.
The Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2016 reports that there are 187,500 households on the waiting list for public housing dwellings across Australia despite public housing systems operating with an occupancy rate of 97.9 per cent. The same report tells us that 42.5 per cent of low income households are experiencing rental stress and that that figure is worsening.
As the Prime Minister and his Ministers continue to talk up a 15 per cent GST many Australians locked out of the housing market or living every week in housing stress would be right to ask whether this government has its priorities right.
The social consequences of the current housing markets, particularly on low and middle income households requires more action from the Turnbull government than a government controlled working group which isn’t going to report until half way through the year.
WEDNESDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2016
Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness and the Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on State and Territory Relations.