At a meeting hosted by the Greens at AHEPA Hall West End last Sunday, 30 July, Member of Griffith, Max Chandler-Mather said the Federal Government’s Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) lacks detail and that it will in fact see the housing crisis worsen. Mr Chandler-Mather claims the $10 billion allocated to build 20,000 social and 10,000 affordable houses will not be spent directly on housing, rather it will be gambled on the stock exchange and the expected returns used to build homes.

According to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURi) there is a difference between “social” and “affordable” housing, the first being owned and managed by state and territory governments or by not-for-profit organisations, the latter being less clearly-defined but usually meaning costing no more than 30 per cent of a tenant’s income. Mr. Chandler-Mather said the Greens define affordable housing as costing no more than 25 per cent of total income.

According to the Greens’ figures, there is currently a shortage of 640,000 homes in Australia and this number is predicted to rise to 715,000 by 2027, making the government’s addition of 30,000 new homes inadequate. It also does not address the problem of rising rents.

Mr Chandler-Mather says the ACT is the only one of the states and territories to place a cap on rents and, as a result, rents have begun going backwards.

The Greens have two key demands:

  • A minimum of $5 billion invested directly in public and affordable housing every year (one-third of what the government’s own experts say is needed).
  • A national plan for renters including the Federal Government coordinating a national freeze on rent increases and ongoing rent caps.

Failing these demands, they are prepared to accept “$2.5 billion for affordable housing and $1 billion to incentivise a freeze and cap on rents”.

The Greens say they have had four key wins so far:

  • renters rights are on the national agenda
  • HAFF will guarantee spending each year
  • $2 billion worth of new money for social housing right now (not tied to the HAFF)
  • first ever inquiry into the Rental Crisis

A slide shown at the meeting indicated the supply of public housing fell dramatically during the ‘90s—from a peak of almost 1500 (per million people) after WWII to a low of less than 300—when changes were made to taxes and bank lending practices.

“To solve the crisis we need to scrap the tax concessions and invest that money in social and affordable housing.”

Mr. Chandler-Mather said the argument that the problem was a lack of supply was a myth, quoting the Sydney university economist Dr. Cameron Murray who said the problem was actually restrictive planning controls and that “the housing supply myth…allows governments to shed responsibility for policies that would make housing cheaper”.

Ideally, Mr. Chandler-Mather said, the Greens would like to see European-style lease agreements introduced, where, in some countries, the minimum is 5 years, providing more security for renters and the ability to become established in their communities.

Mr. Chandler-Mather said the federal government has no policy for addressing First Nation’s housing and that more consultation was needed with First Nations’ people so homes can accommodate their specific requirements. He added that the Voice to Parliament was an important first step.

State Greens MP Amy MacMahon spoke about what is being proposed at the state level, saying they would like to see 25 per cent of new developments allocated to social and affordable housing and a levy imposed on the owners of empty dwellings. Ms MacMahon said instead of spending $2.76 billion on demolishing the Gabba for the Olympic Games the money would be better spent on public housing.

Labor volunteers were outside the hall on Boundary Street handing out flyers stating that every day the Greens delay in backing the HAFF “is $1.3 million less that can be spent on affordable homes”.

Labor claims their plan is backed by nine organisations including the Community Housing Industry Association and Homelessness Australia.

Cover image, Councilllor Trina Massey, Amy MacMahon MP, and Max Chandler-Mather MP – by Rose Lane