Affordable housing vital to participation and productivity: ACOSS

The Australian Council of Social Service has welcomed Kevin Andrew’s first speech as Federal Housing Minister, and is calling on the new Government to work with the States and Territories to improve the supply of affordable housing and address homelessness as an urgent joint priority.

“We were pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge the scale and seriousness of the housing supply and affordability crisis and the clear link between lack of supply and homelessness,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“ACOSS supports a range of investment models and policy levers to increase affordable housing for people, including direct government investment, incentives for private sector investment and tax reform.

“We were also pleased to hear Minister Andrews’ pledge to engage with the community sector in developing a plan for the future of Australia’s housing system. ACOSS and the community sector are very keen to work with the Government to develop and implement effective and innovative housing policy solutions.

“With poverty and homelessness at unacceptably high levels, and a need to increase productivity, we must address a key obstacle to getting and keeping a job – which is Australia’s housing affordability crisis.

“We know that 2 in 5 low income households are in housing stress, paying over 30% of income in rent. This is much worse for families on very low incomes, 61% of whom are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Recent investments in homelessness and affordable housing programs have reduced the number of people sleeping rough, but the number of people who do not have stable, secure housing continues to grow. 

“With reports this week that Australian property prices will surge by more than two times average wages between now and the end of 2015, it’s imperative that governments take effective action to prevent the situation from getting worse.

“In the short term, all governments need to provide funding certainty for vital programs already in place. We support the Commission of Audit focusing on removing real waste in government administration and tax arrangements so that now and in the future governments can respond to community expectations about meeting real needs.

“Having an affordable roof over your head would have to be near the top of what most people expect. While this review is being taken, it is critical that the individuals, families and communities that are supported through the current National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness have certainty into the future.

“Affordable housing is also a key issue for the forthcoming tax review. This is an opportunity to tackle current distortions in the tax treatment of housing that drive up prices, including tax breaks for geared property investments. We must be prepared to put all issues on the table.

“Working with developers, investors, and the community, the Federal Government has a great opportunity to play a major role in encouraging investment in new and affordable housing. Increasing the supply of affordable housing would not only address our most pressing cost of living problem, but would also support increased employment participation and productivity. Housing is essential social infrastructure.” Dr Goldie said.

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