The ACT Government has rejected claims it’s spending less money on public housing year on year.
According to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS), the government spent $141.7 million on public housing in 2019-20. In the next financial year, 2020-21, the total capital spend was $135.7 million.
This is despite the fact that the government has promised a record $600 million investment in public housing.
But the government says the $6 million difference is not classifiable as a drop in spending.
“The Growing and Renewing Public Housing program is a six-year program to deliver the renewal of 1000 properties and grow the portfolio by 400 properties. Expenditure over the six years is not a linear calculation and can be impacted by external factors,” a government spokesperson said.
Those additional properties will be added to the government’s public housing stock by 2025.
Furthermore, the government says point-in-time data – such as the RoGS report – does not consider simple issues such as construction delays due to wet weather or supply chain issues resulting from a global pandemic that may delay milestone payments.
Throughout 2021-22, the ACT Government will invest $82.395 million in public housing. This figure includes funding for maintenance, repairs as well as new builds.
Nevertheless, the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has pointed out “major failings” in the Territory government’s policy to address what they say is a housing crisis.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said there remains a need for social housing. She pointed out that the ACT had a shortfall of more than 3000 social dwellings, and more than 2000 Canberrans reported experiencing homelessness last year.
“The RoGS data tells us that there are fewer social housing dwellings today than there were in 2018 when the ACT Housing Strategy was launched. Meanwhile, almost 3000 households languish on the ACT’s social housing waiting list,” Dr Campbell said.
But Minister for Housing Yvette Berry said the ACT invests the most per capita into public housing.
“The budget investment has also grown over time,” Ms Berry said.
“For example, more is being spent this year than in 2016-2017 – and when you include all social housing, which is public plus community housing – the investment has actually been consistent for the last three years.”
She also called on the Australian Government to support social and affordable housing by waiving the ACT’s historic housing debt and establishing a national housing strategy.
The ACT Government defended its spending by saying the report showed the ACT was leading the nation when it comes to providing housing.