6 April 2024

Greens' public housing policy under fire but ACTCOSS says government needs to step in

| Ian Bushnell
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ACTCOSS CEO Devin Bowles: the market has clearly failed to deliver affordable housing. Photo: ACTCOSS.

Labor and the Canberra Liberals have ganged up to pan the ACT Greens’ public housing policy, but the $6 billion pledge to build 10,000 new homes over the next decade has got the backing of the social services sector.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) called on all parties and candidates to commit to a similarly transformative change of the ACT’s housing system, saying the market had clearly failed to meet the housing needs of all Canberrans.

However, both Housing and Suburban Development Minister Yvette Berry and Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said the policy was unaffordable and could not be achieved.

Ms Berry said the Greens were making promises to vulnerable Canberrans that they knew could not be kept and, after being part of the government for nearly a decade, should know better.

“They should be upfront with the community about the huge hurdles to implement this policy,” she said.

“Where is the workforce going to come from? Where will the houses be located? What will be the impact on other essential government services?”

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Mr Berry said ACT Labor had a proven track record to build more and better public housing.

“We are working hard every day to ensure every Canberran has the chance to build, rent or buy a home where they want to live,” she said.

Ms Elizabeth Lee said the policy would be disastrous for the ACT’s finances but also blasted Labor and the Greens for the decline in public housing on their watch.

Ms Lee said the policy was a cut-and-paste copy of the Federal Greens policy slammed by property industry experts.

“The Labor-Greens government already fails to meet its own land release targets; how would it be any different going forward?” she asked.

Ms Lee said the Greens had not explained how these 10,000 new homes would be delivered.

“If they haven’t delivered more public housing dwellings in the 12 years they’ve been in government, they won’t ever deliver them,” she said.

Elizabeth Lee, MLA.

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee: the plan would cost too much. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Ms Lee said the ACT now had fewer dwellings than a decade ago under the current Greens Minister in charge of homelessness and housing services, Rebecca Vassarotti.

“Let’s not forget that the Leader of the ACT Greens and former Greens Housing Minister, Shane Rattenbury, helped sell hundreds of public housing dwellings to pay for the tram,” she said.

The policy’s price tag would put the Territory’s finances into an even more diabolical state than they were now, Ms Lee said.

“So far, the ACT Greens want to spend more than $4 billion on the tram to Woden and now want to spend almost $6 billion on a policy that will do nothing to fix the mess they have created with public housing,” she said.

“Canberrans will soon be paying almost $2 million a day in interest repayments on this government’s eyewatering debt. Imagine the impact of this policy on Canberrans’ hip pockets during a cost-of-living crisis.”

But ACTCOSS Dr Devin Bowles said affordable housing had become out of reach for an increasing number of Canberrans over recent years, including many young people starting their careers and working full-time.

“The waiting list for standard priority public housing applicants is five years, a figure that has remained far too high for many years,” he said.

Mr Bowles said that the government was a landlord of choice overseas rather than of last resort.

“This approach means that the benefits of public housing are widely shared,” he said.

Mr Bowles said many Canberrans cared about someone who could directly benefit from expanded public housing.

He said 25 years ago, the ACT Government owned a much larger share of Canberra’s total housing stock.

“This plan is a sensible return to that approach,” said Dr Bowles.

“Many families and businesses know that investing in real estate makes good financial sense. The same should be true for government, especially when a lack of affordable housing jeopardises the ACT’s economic growth,” said Dr Bowles.

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He said accommodation was a continuing barrier for new workers coming to Canberra and an impediment to employers retaining staff.

“Many community sector organisations report their workers leaving the ACT because they cannot afford the housing,” Dr Bowles said.

“A substantial expansion of public housing would alleviate this stress for the community sector and help businesses hire the people they need to grow.”

Dr Bowles said an extra 10,000 new public housing dwellings would fix Canberra’s homelessness problem and provide housing to workers who could not afford secure accommodation.

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Shane Vaughan7:32 am 09 Apr 24

The elephant in the room regarding building enough housing stock with our workforce is the problem of house size.

The Canberra economy dictates that to realise value from the expensive blocks, you need to build a large, expensive house.

I’m pretty sure we could build 3 or 4 ex-govy style homes in the time it takes to build these modern 4 bed,4 bath,2 living, 2 storey articulated homes.

Incidental Tourist10:35 am 07 Apr 24

Distorted dysfunctional housing market is Greens/Labor failed utopia experiment. Increasing demand for public housing, new dwelling construction collapse and growing debt are the evidences of their policy failure. “Investing in real estate makes good financial sense”, yes but interstate in NSW or in QLD but not in ACT under heavy tax burden and draconian residential tenancy legislation. Investors leave Canberra, so do construction tradies and young workforce.

Max_Rockatansky9:52 am 07 Apr 24

Sounds like the socialist tail is wagging the environmentalist dog within The Greens these days.

Instead of migrants , give the homeless jobs so we can help our locals before outsiders. Help them build themselves up and get stable before importing new Labor.

Its pretty hard to hold down a job if you have no where to live. Having a home is the most important step to getting people back on their feet

You are assuming that those who are unemployed, including homeless, actually want a job. Not sure that’s a valid assumption.

Who wouldn’t want a job to put a roof over their head, warm bed to sleep in and food on the table? Why not offer and see instead of assuming they don’t want a job. I speak to them regularly and they always say a job would help them get off the streets.

HiddenDragon7:57 pm 06 Apr 24

“Let’s not forget that the Leader of the ACT Greens and former Greens Housing Minister, Shane Rattenbury, helped sell hundreds of public housing dwellings to pay for the tram,” she said.”

The Greens could demonstrate their seriousness on this issue by making their support for any further work on light rail beyond Stage 2A conditional upon delivering (not just talking about) significant public housing milestones.

Given the already publicly admitted delays and uncertainties (with more, no doubt, to come) about Stage 2B the Greens would essentially be making a virtue of necessity if they were to take such a stance, but getting a few more Canberrans “out of their cars” will, of course, stop climate change in its tracks and save the planet, so the Greens will pretend that Canberra can have a light rail network and transformative public housing.

Labor and the LNP appear committed to the status quo failure of land as a tax haven and for profit financial asset. They can’t learn and are unfit to govern. The Greens will need to ensure that NIMBYs and environmentalists don’t obstruct housing construction or they will surely repeat recent Labor-Greens failures on land release.

Stephen Saunders11:47 am 06 Apr 24

“Where’s the workforce going to come from?” Migration, of course. Import mega migrants to build more houses > Mega migrants need somewhere to live > Housing supply can’t keep pace > Repeat step one. The “Great Australian Hamster Wheel”.

Great policy. A city like canberra should not have people living on the streets and people on average incomes unable to afford anywhere to buy or rent. What we are doing now has failed Australians. Building more public housing is a no brainer. Yes it costs more money. But what are the other solutions? The private sector has failed. Keeping do the same thing is madness. Time for a reset.

devils_advocate9:09 am 06 Apr 24

“the market had clearly failed to meet the housing needs of all Canberrans.”

Lmao “the market” has failed

Not poorly designed and implemented regulation that is administered with blatant favouritism

Not punitive taxes such as stamp duties and lease variation charges that discourage or prevent redevelopment

Not drop feeding new land release to inflation land sale revenue

Not regulatory backlogs that add hundreds of thousands of dollars in holding costs

No, Seymour, it’s “the market” that is to blame. Clowns.

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