Australia

AAH releases 4-point plan to address housing affordability issues

AUSTRALIANS for Affordable Housing (AAH), a coalition of national housing, welfare and community sector organisations, has proposed a four-point plan to address affordable housing in Australia that would see an increase in affordable housing supply, improve rent assistance and set benchmarks for all levels of government.

The plan, released at the end of August prior to the meeting of the COAG Select Committee on Housing and Homelessness in Perth and titled  'Addressing Housing Affordability: A four point plan for the next five years' , aims to deliver 30,000 new affordable housing units each year and lift 250,000 households out of housing stress over five years.

It aims to deliver affordable housing options for two out of every three people currently on public and community housing waiting lists, as well as take pressure off house prices and ease demand in the private rental market.

"Housing is the single biggest household cost in Australia and, over the last 25 years, housing costs have been taking a bigger bite [out] of the household budgets – up as a proportion of spending by 41 per cent in that time," said AAH campaign manager Sarah Toohey.

"By contrast we actually spend slightly less on energy bills than we did in 1984. Yet while we hear increasing outrage about the burdens of power bills, political parties are not calling for similar action on our housing affordability crisis. The cost of living debate in Australia is missing a huge part of the equation. The cost of living debate should be a cost of housing debate."

The plan released by AAH outlines a pathway for governments to act on the nation's housing affordability crisis. It includes:

1. Increase the supply of affordable rental housing:

  • Establish an Affordable Housing Growth Fund that would fund at least 20,000 new low-income rental properties each year (Cost: $1.4 billion over five years).
  • Double the number of property incentives under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (Cost: $1.1 billion over five years).

2. Improve housing affordability through tax reform:

  • Change the tax breaks for housing investors, such as negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts (Saving: $5 billion over five years).
  • Help state governments to abolish stamp duty and introduce a broad-based land tax.

3. Improve rent assistance:

  • Establish a Productivity Commission review to enhance the effectiveness of Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
  • Increase the current maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance to restore its real value to the household budget. This would be an increase of between $22 and $27 per week, depending on household type (Cost: $6 billion over 5 years).

4. Set benchmarks for all levels of government to deliver affordable housing:

  • Develop a national housing and infrastructure plan, with transparent funding and accountability arrangements.

Ms Toohey said in order to tackle the housing affordability crisis, Australia needs innovative solutions, a national commitment and a growing understanding amongst the community that the housing affordability crisis hurts all.

"Because of its complexity, we cannot simply expect the housing system to fix itself, nor can we rely on the market or on the quick fix solutions of the past, like First home Owner Grants and land release," Ms Toohey said.

More information on the report, 'Addressing Housing Affordability: A four point plan for the next five years', is available from the Australians for Affordable Housing website at <http://www.housingstressed.org.au/>.

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