On the third anniversary of its National Affordable Housing Summit, a broad national coalition of housing and community groups has strongly criticised the lack of national action to address the creeping crisis of housing affordability.
During the last 15 years or so,
· house prices relative to household income have almost doubled;
· the proportion of first homebuyers has fallen by about 20%;
· average monthly payments on new loans have risen more than 50%;
· the proportion of low-rent homes has dropped by at least 15%;
· opportunities to rent public housing have fallen by at least 30%.
The National Affordable Housing Summit calls on both the Government and the Opposition to make major policy commitments on affordable housing as part of their platforms for the Federal election.
The coalition is led by the Housing Industry Association, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Council of Social Service, National Shelter and Community Housing Federation.
Its chair, Prof Julian Disney, said today that the Summit accurately predicted in 2004 that affordability would get even worse unless governments acted quickly and vigorously.
“House prices are higher than almost every other OECD country and affordability is the worst on record. Rental vacancies are lower than for at least 20 years and rents are climbing fast. Housing construction has fallen far below the level of demand.
There is a desperate need for stronger national leadership and assistance from Canberra as well as greater contributions from the States. The problem will not be solved by simply ‘leaving it to the market’ or by more tinkering and buck-passing.”
The coalition called for a 5-year program focusing especially on helping homebuyers in newly-developed suburbs and boosting low-rent housing by at least 10,000 per year. The Commonwealth’s annual investment would need to reach at least $1 billion over the period, accompanied by substantial State contributions, and expand further in subsequent years.
The new program should include
· a Commonwealth Minister for Housing and Urban Development;
· a new National Affordable Housing Agreement to improve the supply of public and non-profit housing for lower-income households;
· a National Affordable Rental Incentive to boost investment by superannuation funds and other large financial institutions in low-rent housing;
· a Residential Infrastructure Fund to help States meet the cost of infrastructure in high-growth areas.
COMMENTS BY COALITION MEMBERS
HIA Managing Director, Dr Ron Silberberg:
“A new National Affordable Housing Agreement with specific commitments by all governments to boost supply of low-rent housing has become even more crucial since the Summit. So has a special Commonwealth fund to help provide adequate infrastructure in high-growth areas.”
ACTU Secretary-elect, Jeff Lawrence:
“Housing costs are putting increasingly severe pressures on workers’ finances, health and families. They are forcing more and more people to live very long distance from work opportunities and community facilities.”
ACOSS Director, Andrew Johnson:
“More than three-quarters of a million lower-income households are in unaffordable housing. Housing costs are a major factor in the growing gap between people who are comfortable and those in distress.”
National Shelter President, Adrian Pisarski:
“The decline in public housing needs to be reversed and major incentives must be provided to lift private investment in low-rent housing. Non-profit housing associations should be encouraged to play a much larger role, as they do in the UK.”
Community Housing Federation of Australia Executive Director, Carol Croce:
“Safe, secure and affordable housing fosters family stability, allows tenants to better integrate into their communities and contributes to improved health and well-being. The Call to Action provides sound policy responses that will increase the supply of affordable housing throughout Australia.”
For information and comment by Julian Disney, contact 02-9804-0631 or email@example.com
COPIES OF THE COALITION’S “CALL FOR ACTION” ARE AVAILABLE AT WWW.HOUSINGSUMMIT.ORG.AU OR BY EMAIL FROM REBECCARICHARDSON@BIGPOND.COM