Australia

Federal Government axes National Housing Supply Council

THE Australian Government has axed the National Housing Supply Council (NHSC), which was established in May 2008 to monitor housing demand, supply and affordability in Australia and to highlight current and potential gaps between housing supply and demand.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who announced the abolishment of the NHSC – along with the High Speed Rail Advisory Group and ten other non-statutory bodies – in a statement last Friday, said the changes would further streamline government and reduce duplication.

In other changes, the government will amalgamate four bodies with other non-statutory bodies to simplify activities and absorb the core functions of five bodies within their relevant department.

"Many of these non-statutory bodies have outlived their original purpose or are not focused on the Government's policy priorities. As a result, their work is best carried out by the relevant government departments or agencies," Mr Abbott said in the statement.

The scrapping of the NHSC was met with criticism from key industry organisations, with the Property Council of Australia saying the decision will leave Australia with no way forward on housing supply and the Planning Institute of Australia saying it will deny the nation a critical source of data that supports smart planning for future needs.

Property Council Executive Director, Caryn Kakas, said the scrapping of the NHSC will leave Federal and State governments "flying blind on the issue of housing" and take away the government's only insight into Australia's housing affordability and undersupply problems.

"The NHSC's annual State of Supply report is a critical piece of intelligence that informs industry and government as to the true housing needs around Australia," Ms Kakas said.

"If the Government is committed to scrapping the NHSC, they must outline an alternative strategy for working with industry to identify and meet the demand for housing," she said, before adding that "simply handballing the issue to COAG is no solution at all."

"Combined with the scrapping of the Council on Positive Ageing, the Federal Government now has no mechanism for receiving advice on housing policy including for those most vulnerable and seniors."

"Housing affordability and supply are too important to be left to the states alone – the Federal Government must play a role in addressing the chronic undersupply of affordable housing."

Planning Institute of Australia Chief Executive Officer Kirsty Kelly said that while the government has been upfront in its intent to reduce the cost of government business, axing the NHSC could have costly ramifications for housing affordability, and possibly for the Federal Government Budget.

"The NHSC's State of Supply report provides critical data that informs planning and decision making around the nation's future housing needs," Ms Kelly said.

"This data helps the private sector to assess the types and numbers of houses it needs to build, and it enables planners to judge the right policy settings around infrastructure, land use and movement; policy decisions that will ultimately facilitate those developments.

"Without this data we run the risk of ad hoc housing development, with enormous potential consequences from the misallocation of scarce public and private resources," Ms Kelly said.

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