20 June 2023

ACT gets $50 million social housing boost from Commonwealth

| Ian Bushnell
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New public housing in Dickson. Photo: Housing ACT.

A $50 million federal injection into social housing in the ACT will mean an expansion of new and renovated properties to provide homes for Canberrans seeking help to keep a roof over their heads.

The new money from the Federal Government is part of its $2 billion national Social Housing Fund Accelerator program, which will be provided to States and Territories within the next two weeks. It is expected to deliver thousands of new social homes across Australia.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the program after Friday’s national cabinet meeting in Canberra.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT would have flexibility in how it used the $50 million to permanently boost social housing in Canberra.

He said it would include new builds, expanding existing renewal programs, and renovating or refurbishing any existing but currently uninhabitable housing stock.

“We will announce further details on the allocation of the additional funding in the coming months,” he said.

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Mr Barr said the Prime Minister’s announcement continued to progress the new National Housing Accord, a shared ambition between the Federal and State/Territory governments to build one million new homes over five years from 2024.

It also built on the work of National Cabinet on renters’ rights and planning reforms.

“In the coming months, the ACT Government will continue to expand our partnership with the Federal Government to address housing affordability, supply and homelessness,” Mr Barr said.

“The forthcoming Territory Budget will include funding to support the next phase of our plan to increase housing supply and affordability.”

The $2 billion in funding has been allocated on a per capita basis with a minimum of $50 million to each State and Territory.

Mr Albanese said the money would create thousands of homes for Australians on social housing waiting lists and increase housing supply sooner, with all funding to be committed by States and Territories within two years ending 30 June 2025.

“We know Australians want practical solutions, and we’ll work with the Barr Government to get on with the job of delivering more social housing,” Mr Albanese said.

“This is real dollars, driving real change and building more homes for Australians.”

Minister for Finance and Senator for the ACT Katy Gallagher said a decade of neglect and inaction from the Coalition government had meant that Australians were facing high rents and the goal of home ownership was moving further out of reach for many.

“Labor knows that rents in the ACT are among the highest in the nation and too many Canberrans don’t have access to safe and affordable housing and we are taking action,” she said.

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But ACT Greens MLA Johnathon Davis said that if the Federal Government was seriously interested in helping the ACT tackle the housing crisis, it would waive the Territory’s legacy $90 million housing debt, something the Barr Government has been lobbying successive governments to do.

Mr Davis said the ACT was due to make a $12 million repayment to the Commonwealth by the end of the financial year.

“It must respond to the unanimous calls from all members of the Assembly, across all three parties, and immediately forgive the ACT’s historic public housing debt,” he said.

The Albanese Government’s $10 billion housing future fund bill has been delayed in the Senate. The Greens and the Coalition combined on Monday to defer a vote until October as the Greens press on with its push for a rent freeze.

This is despite the Greens claiming credit for the social housing funding. They also said the government had caved to their pressure, and reversed a commitment to spend a minimum of $500 million a year on social housing regardless of how the future fund performs.

The government says the Housing Australia Future Fund will eventually help build 30,000 social and affordable homes.

Australia’s peak housing bodies had also called on the Greens to pass the bill, saying the nation cannot afford any more delays.

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Haha don’t think so. 😂 The bill got rejected by the Senate. Biased media coverage yet again reporting a “housing crisis” as fact when there is no data supporting this. Vacancy rates are above historical averages across the ACT and so is the level of home ownership. How about we address the youth crime epidemic and drugs crisis in the ACT as well if we are getting emotive about issues affecting Canberra!

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