National housing fund finally passes with concessions to Greens
The Labor Government's key housing policy has finally gained Senate support but not before it had to cough up another $1 billion to meet demands from The Greens.
The Labor Government’s housing policy centrepiece has finally secured Senate approval after months of political wrangling that had threatened to cause an early federal election.
The Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) passed with a majority vote in the Senate on Wednesday (13 September) after an agreement was reached between the government and The Greens.
In exchange for the Greens’ support of the HAFF Bill, the government on Monday agreed to spend a further $1 billion in immediate and direct spending on public and community housing. The funding will be distributed through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC).
The latest deal-making means The Greens have extracted an additional $3 billion in total that would be spent directly on housing.
The $10 billion HAFF includes 30,000 new and affordable social homes to be built in its first five years.
Property and building peak bodies welcomed the end of the political impasse that had threatened to derail the much-needed initiative to address the country’s chronic undersupply of housing.
Property Council of Australia Chief Executive Mike Zorbas welcomed the agreement.
“A wealthy, land rich nation like Australia should not have a housing deficit,” Mr Zorbas said.
“This is welcome news for new social housing and housing supply in general.
“Australia now has a better chance of achieving our ambitious national target of 1.2 million homes by 2029.
“Now we must turn our attention to the unfinished business of improving our state planning systems so they can deal with the welcome influx of skilled migrants and students over the decade ahead,” he said.
Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said the combination of the Housing Future Fund, the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, and Housing Australia embeds housing as a core infrastructure priority for the Federal Government.
“The cooperation seen across all levels of government to prioritise tackling the housing crisis is a relief to many doing it tough.
“Whether it is social and community housing, rental properties, or owner-occupiers, the common constraint is supply.
“The Housing Australia Future Fund legislation is a vital piece in the housing puzzle by encouraging investment in the social and community housing sector.
“Passing this legislation is imperative to delivering the National Housing Accord target of 1.2 million new, well-located homes in the next five years.
Ms Wawn added that the Government has rightfully not bowed to pressure for harmful rental market interventions that she said would do nothing to boost housing supply.
“We know the biggest handbrake on housing supply is making it easier for new projects to get the green light by kickstarting private investment and reducing development costs and delays.
“To improve housing affordability across the market, all levels of government must continue to work together to implement continuous land supply through rezoning and planning, and taxes on the development and buying process should be reduced,” Ms Wawn said.
Greens say renters are winners
Greens Leader Adam Bandt said the party would continue to use its position in balance of power to push the government to address soaring rents with a freeze and cap on rents.
Those measures have so far been resisted and attracted harsh criticism from property commentators.
“Renters are powerful and the Greens are the party of renters. We have won more money for housing for renters, and rent control is next,” Mr Bandt said.
“Nine months ago, the government refused to guarantee a single dollar for housing, and renters barely even registered in the national debate. The Greens have secured $3 billion directly spent on housing, and renters are now a vocal social movement that won’t be ignored.
“Labor’s HAFF still won’t fix the housing crisis, but the Greens have secured $3 billion dollars for housing right now – not relying on a gamble on the stock market – and we’ve got to a position where it can pass the Senate.
“Renters have watched on in horror as Labor has refused to cap and freeze soaring rents.”
Originally published on 11 September, this article was updated on 13 September to reflect the passage of the HAFF bill through the Senate.