15 June 2023

Greens right on housing response but wrong to block bill

| Ian Bushnell
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Common Ground Dickson

Common Ground Dickson provides homes for individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and affordable housing for low-income Canberrans. Australia needs more. Photo: Kiernan May.

Congratulations to the Greens for wringing a couple of concessions out of the Albanese Government on its housing bill, and with a vote, this week put off, there may still be time to gain a few more.

The government’s bill will establish a $10 billion investment fund, with the returns to go towards building social and affordable housing from 2024-2025 – with a spending cap of $500 million a year.

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

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The Greens say this is not the kind of response required to fix a crisis of such magnitude.

They prefer no delay until next year, direct funding, not relying on playing the share market, and a much bigger target based on spending $2.5 billion a year, as well as spending $1 billion on a rent freeze that the Federal Government coordinates with the states and territories.

The government says the Greens are being unrealistic, but Housing Minister Julie Collins has offered to remove the cap and spend a minimum of $500 million a year, while a rent freeze is considered unworkable.

The Greens are right. The response won’t be enough.

That view was bolstered by a report from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute on Thursday (15 June) calling for a national strategy that would aim to grow social and affordable rental housing by 950,000 dwellings to 2041, or 50,000 a year.

That’s much more than the government’s 8000 over the next five years.

It argues that the current approach to housing is incoherent and fragmented and needs to be brought under federal leadership through Housing Australia.

It also believes the strategy should have a mission of adequate housing for all and encompass a range of policies that intersect with housing, including tenancy law, migration, finance and taxation.

The report argues that policies designed to boost home ownership, such as preferential tax treatments and first-home owner grants have done the opposite, making homeowners the most subsidised sector in the housing system and locking out those without access to family housing wealth.

It says that housing-related taxation, housing finance, and planning and development regimes should be aligned with Australia’s housing and homelessness missions.

In short, a piecemeal response that doesn’t get to the nub of the problem is not going to work.

Australia would not be on its own embarking on such a plan, with the report pointing to Canada’s 10-year housing strategy, which is at the halfway point, and approaches in Europe, notably Finland.

These offer lessons for Australia, it says.

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So the Greens are not that far off the mark when they argue that the Albanese Government needs to do more.

But in the poker game on the Hill, the Greens will need to know when to fold and take whatever wins it can achieve.

Labor has at least put the Commonwealth back in the housing game, and the investment fund and the homes it will help build will be better than nothing.

The Greens should continue fighting for more but see the bill as a downpayment on a bigger and broader response, as the AHURI report recommends.

Blowing up the bill to make a political point would only damage their credibility as a productive force in the Parliament.

Voting for the bill would be a win-win – they can say they fought the good fight and can continue to press the government, and there will be some progress at least.

The onus will then be fully on Labor to actually deliver on housing.

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But the Greens are not blocking the bill to make a political point. It needs improvements and Labor has been intransigent. The Greens would be happy to go with the recommendations of the AHURI report.

Peter Herman12:34 pm 17 Jun 23

He greens are as bad as the ‘no party’
Why are they blocking the bill
What will they gain
I am guessing that they want to big note themselves
I bet that every ‘greens member’s as a home to go home to, but they want more Aussies living in caravans and tents
They are a disgrace
It’s time that the Greens moved over and let the government get on with supporting homes and also give some builders some work and help the homeless
The Greens are a disgrace
Get outa the way and let the government build and or renovate homes
You are a dusgrace

You note that a report has said that the government’s housing bill is “a piecemeal response that doesn’t get to the nub of the problem (and) is not going to work”. It’s a totally inadequate housing policy that won’t go anywhere near meeting the needs. But then you suggest the Greens should pass the bill with a few slight improvements, because anything is better than “blowing up the bill”. If the bill is defeated because it is totally inadequate, that is a plus, because then the ALP might have to actually do something substantial to address the problem, not just huff and puff at the Greens. Rather than “damage their credibility as a productive force in the Parliament”, they would enhance their credibility as a party of principle and courage, who are there to bring about change for the better, not just to retain their seats. The young people of this country know who’s in their corner on this one, and they know it’s not the government and its smoke and mirrors housing bill!

ChrisinTurner2:24 pm 16 Jun 23

The Greens have a good point. Where does the $10B come from? Better to spend the money now than put it in the bank to earn interest, which won’t even cover inflation.

GrumpyGrandpa1:12 pm 16 Jun 23

The Greens’ policy is mind boggling.

They have an “Open Door” Immigration/ Refugee policy and with that comes an increase need for Housing.

When you increase Demand, unless the Supply increases, the cost of housing increases for all of us!

And of course, the problem with artificially prime pumping Housing construction by spending more Government money is that throwing more money into something doesn’t make it cheaper.
We are already struggling with supply issues and availability of trades and we are seeing building companies fail.

The last thing we need is an increase Demand by more Government spending, putting even more pressure on the Housing sector and that increased activity fuelling Inflation (and Interest Rates).

Stephen Saunders8:21 am 16 Jun 23

Mad Albanese has cranked population growth, to a truly mind-boggling 1.9%. Twice as high as India even. Totally off the scale, as compared with EU, US, China or Japan.

But let’s stay down in the weeds with his HAFF. Should fix rental/homeless thang.

Why should the Greens fold? It’s great to see a party finally sticking up for something they believe in. All we ever see from the other two major parties is compromise and short term, must-get-elected-next-time, thinking. Having enough power to finally be able to force an issue to a better outcome is what this country desperately needs. To paraphrase a great Labor leader (and we haven’t had many), crash through or crash. But don’t compromise on the important things.

Greens playbook is the communist manifesto, there is no option for them to deviate down any other avenue of policy. 😂

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