Industry welcomes new Minister for Housing and Homelessness

HOUSING and property industry groups have welcomed the appointment of Brendan O'Connor as Minister for Housing and Homelessness and applauded the Federal Government for retaining the role of Housing Minister as a Cabinet position.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the changes to the Cabinet and Ministry last Friday, saying she had "put together a team that will best equip my Government to pursue our priorities for the nation."

Mr O'Connor, who was also appointed Minister for Small Business, takes over the housing role from Robert McClelland, a supporter of Kevin Rudd in last week's leadership ballot.

The Housing Industry Association (HIA) said that with the Australian housing industry made up of around 85 per cent small business, Mr O'Connor has an opportunity to combine the two portfolios for unique policy initiatives and programs.

The Association's Chief Executive, Graham Wolfe, said Australia faces both a housing shortage and affordability challenge and that he looks forward to meeting with Mr O'Connor to discuss the many pressing policy areas that need to be addressed to revitalise the residential housing industry.

Australians for Affordable Housing (AAH) welcomed the appointment of Brendan O'Connor and applauded the move to retain the role of Housing Minister as a Cabinet position.

AAH Campaign Manager Sarah it was "recognition that housing is central to the wellbeing of every single Australian household, and should be a concern for the highest levels of government".

Ms Toohey added that housing is the biggest cost of living issue in Australia and said a national housing plan is needed to deliver affordable housing.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) said the retention of the Housing portfolio in Cabinet recognises the serious challenges that the Federal Government faces in the delivery of affordable housing to all Australians.

"It is extremely important that housing remains firmly on the Federal Government's agenda, and the new Minister will have the full support of UDIA", said UDIA National President, Julie Katz.

The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) welcomed Mr O'Connor to his new role and said some of the issues it would like to see on the agenda include housing affordability, supply of housing, solutions to lengthy planning delays, a focus on skills shortages and the cost of entering the property market and the abolition of inefficient state property taxes.

REIA President, Pamela Bennett, said the REIA was glad the Housing portfolio had been maintained in the reshuffle and said Australians will expect leadership from the Government on housing issues.

While welcoming the new Minister, the Residential Development Council said it is crucial that the barriers impacting the delivery of affordable housing be addressed, including reforming the taxation system, eliminating unnecessary planning delays and ensuring the timely delivery of linking infrastructure and amenity to communities.

"Minister O'Connor will need to build upon the endeavours of previous Ministers to facilitate the delivery of housing supply and drive the affordability reform agenda," said the Council's Executive Director, Caryn Kakas.

"This reform agenda must focus on the broader operation of the housing market and identify the appropriate role for governments in removing the underlying market barriers to delivery."

Ms Kakas said "housing should be the focal point for a system that clearly aligns long-term planning, infrastructure and the provision of both homes and jobs."

Julia Gillard's new Ministry was sworn in by Governor-General Quentin Bryce yesterday at Government House, Canberra.

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