I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you all today.
Australia is facing a number of housing challenges, with too many Australians struggling to access a safe and affordable place to call home.
Events like this conference help to inform and shape the Albanese Government’s decisions about the future of housing policy in Australia.
As we come together today, we work towards the shared goal of improving housing outcomes for Victorians and for all Australians.
I am looking forward to meeting with many of you attending today who have an impact on our community-housing sector.
Whatever your role in the sector may be, everyone here has a stake in making a positive difference to the nation’s housing landscape.
I am also committed to making a positive difference.
Secure housing, a sense of community, a sense of dignity, lays the foundation on which a person can build a better future.
With secure housing, a person can better look after their health and personal wellbeing.
With secure housing, a person can better pursue the educational and employment opportunities needed for future financial stability.
With secure housing, a person is better able to access and take advantage of the resources required to reach their full potential.
However, secure housing is not a reality for all Australians.
On Census night in 2021, 122,494 people were estimated to be experiencing homelessness.
One in every 200 Australians did not have a safe place to call home.
We need to do better.
To address homelessness, we first must recognise that people can experience homelessness in many forms.
Of the 122,494 people, some were sleeping rough in tents, their cars or makeshift shelters, or sleeping out on the street or on park benches.
Some were staying with relatives or friends, in overcrowded houses, or in other temporary lodgings.
Others were in boarding houses, crisis shelters, or supported accommodation.
It is easy for 122,494 people to just become a statistic.
We must remember that each person experiencing homelessness has a story to tell.
When these Census results were released last month, the Albanese Government listened and responded immediately.
I announced that we will deliver a $67.5 million boost to homelessness services funding.
This funding will be distributed by state and territory governments over the next year, as they continue to provide support to specialist service providers.
However, this funding boost is just one part of the Government’s housing reform agenda.
Our housing reform agenda is comprehensive, and it is ambitious.
It seeks to address challenges Australians face across the housing spectrum, from homelessness and rental stress to homeownership.
Through our policies and programmes, we are committed to delivering better housing outcomes for Australians.
National Housing Supply and Affordability Council
This is not a feat the Government can achieve alone.
We need the input of the private and not-for-profit sectors, and peak bodies.
We want to hear the voices, opinions and ideas for organisations and representatives across the broader housing industry.
This is why our Government moved to establish the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.
The interim Council met for the first time in February this year.
Led by Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, with her extensive experience in the property sector, the Council brings together diverse skills and experience relevant to housing supply and affordability.
You will hear from one of the Council members, Dr Marcus Spiller, later today.
Over time, the Council’s consultation will put the best possible advice at our disposal.
We want to ensure the Government’s housing investment agenda is – and continues to be – underpinned by independent expert advice.
We are ready to listen and are eager to hear the Council’s evidence-based recommendations to ensure that all levels of Government play their roles in increasing housing supply and improving housing affordability.
State and territory collaboration
The Council will also provide advice on how different levels of government can better work together.
The federal, state and territory governments must all be pulling in the same direction if we are going to create lasting, positive change.
The theme of today’s conference, Vision and Practice: Leading the Way, speaks to this.
We must all work together and build strong relationships to see our shared vision for the future realised.
I recognise that each state and territory is facing their own set of challenges when it comes to housing and homelessness.
Yet while each state and territory have differences, they all share the same problem – we are not building, and haven’t built for a very long time, the quantum of housing a growing and changing Australia needs.
We are lacking enough homes to rent.
We don’t have enough houses for people to buy.
And over the past decade, we have not invested enough in the social and affordable houses that we need.
All the reforms the Albanese Government have announced in our 10 months in office are directed at helping to address this shortfall.
To provide the national leadership, the strategic direction and the necessary investments to drive the coordination of all levels of Government to address our national challenges.
Housing and Homelessness Ministerial Council
Here in Victoria, I look forward to continuing to work alongside the Honourable Colin Brooks, the Minister for Housing.
Minister Brooks and I had the opportunity to share our ambitions for Victoria through the Housing and Homelessness Ministerial Council.
We know better housing and homelessness outcomes means states, territories and the Commonwealth need to work together. Late last year, National Cabinet re-established the Housing and Homelessness Ministerial Council to lead this work.
Our priorities include addressing housing supply, examining opportunities to improve service delivery and improving data quality and sharing. A greater use of data and evidence to put our housing challenges in context means better policymaking and investments at all levels.
Since forming Government, we have held three meetings - in July, September, and December and we will meet again in May.
This was after the former Federal Government failed to meet with State and Territory Ministers for almost 5 years.
Minister Brooks and our other state and territory colleagues all understand that Australians deserves the dignity of a safe place to call home.
All jurisdictions are committed to working together to accelerate development of practical, collaborative solutions to improve housing and homelessness outcomes in conjunction with the new National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.
I am very pleased that we have reinstated this forum, where we can come together, share our visions, and deliver tangible actions for Australia’s housing future.
National Housing and Homelessness Plan
The Ministerial Council also has a role in developing the new National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
The Plan is an opportunity to identify actions needed to address the significant challenges facing the housing and homelessness sectors.
It will also consider the specific housing and homelessness challenges faced by groups who tend to experience disadvantage.
As a 10-year strategy, the Plan will set out a shared vision to inform future housing and homelessness policy in Australia.
All levels of government, not-for-profit and civil society organisations, industry bodies, superannuation funds, other experts in housing, finance and urban development and people with lived experience will have the opportunity to voice their ideas and shape the development of the Plan.
Engagement is crucial to the development of the Plan and I’m pleased to say we will soon launch formal consultation on it.
The Plan is just one of a range of national housing initiatives the Government intends to deliver to ease housing stress and access to social and affordable housing.
The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement
In 2022-23, the Albanese Government will provide approximately $1.6 billion to the states and territories through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) to assist states in delivering social housing and homelessness services.
Last year’s report released by the Productivity Commission on its review of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement revealed the Agreement has a number of shortcomings.
The Government has offered states a one-year extension to the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to June 2024, with an additional $67.5 million of funding to help tackle homelessness.
The extension will allow further time to work with states and key stakeholders to implement the Government’s housing agenda.
National Housing Accord
Building on this, last year the Treasurer and I announced the National Housing Accord, which brings together states and territories, the Australian Local Government Association, investors, and representatives from the construction sector.
It aims to help support the housing supply pipeline beyond next year and into the future.
The Accord sets a shared aspirational target of one million new, well-located homes to be delivered over five years from 2024.
Reaching that target will depend on everybody working together to identify bottlenecks and resolve delays.
The State of the Nation’s Housing Report highlights that a larger pipeline of subsidised housing construction will result from the combined impact of the HAFF and Housing Accord.
Together they commit the Commonwealth to support the delivery of 20,000 social dwellings, and 20,000 affordable dwellings.
National Housing Infrastructure Facility
Another key component of the Government's housing reform agenda is improving access to social housing outcomes through the National Housing Infrastructure Facility (the NHIF).
The NHIF offers concessional loans and grants to help build housing-enabling infrastructure through the $1 billion Fund.
Funds can be spent on new or upgraded infrastructure, including electricity gas, water, sewerage, roads and telecommunications, or they can be put towards demolition and site remediation activities.
We recently widened the remit of the NHIF, enabling us to unlock up to $575 million to be used immediately for investment in new social and affordable housing across Australia in addition to financing housing-enabling infrastructure.
We encourage all Community housing providers across Victoria who are eligible, to apply for a grant or loan under the Facility.
We’ve already seen the important work it can do here in Victoria, with the recent collaboration between NHFIC, Victorian CHPs HousingFirst, City of Port Phillip, and the Victorian State Government.
Through the NHIF, they are on track to construct three social and affordable apartment housing projects, delivering more than 200 homes in metropolitan Melbourne soon.
Investment from the Superannuation Industry
In addition, we are also calling on other industries to get involved in delivering more social and affordable housing.
In November last year, the Government held the first of the Treasurer’s Investment Roundtable.
The Roundtables bring together leaders from the investment community including from some of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, the major banks and global asset managers, to identify and overcome barriers to investment.
Highlighting the Government’s commitment to the sector, the first meeting was on housing. This first Roundtable focused on addressing barriers to investment in the housing sector.
The Government is committed to finding ways to leverage its own commitments, to attract more capital and partners to the sector.
Housing Australia Future Fund
Central to our plans to expand social and affordable housing is the Housing Australia Future Fund.
As many of you would be aware, legislation to establish the Fund is currently before Parliament.
The Housing Australia Future Fund is another important step towards ensuring more Australians can access secure, safe and affordable housing.
The $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund is a significant and long-term investment, which will produce 30,000 new social and affordable rental homes for Australians in need within its first five years.
The Fund also recognises that women often face unique barriers to housing, for this reason 4,000 of the homes under the Fund will be reserved for women fleeing domestic violence and for older women at risk of experiencing homelessness.
Importantly, the Fund is not only about providing social and affordable homes.
The Fund will provide $330 million over the next five years, for acute housing, including:
- $200 million towards the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing in remote Indigenous communities.
- $100 million for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children experiencing family and domestic violence and older women on low incomes at risk of homelessness.
- $30 million to build more housing and fund specialist services for veterans who are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing homelessness.
NHFIC notes that the HAFF will add 30,000 new social and affordable dwellings in its first five years.
This will double the number of new social homes delivered each year from Commonwealth contributions alone compared to the yearly average between 2006 and 2021.
The Senate now has a once in a generation opportunity to create this secure, ongoing pipeline of funding for social and affordable rental homes over the long term.
In the past I’m sure many of you in this room have been frustrated by former Federal Government investments in housing that have been disrupted by changes of government.
The sugar hit of a Government that prioritises housing followed by cuts when a government with different priorities and policies is elected.
This is exactly why the Fund is structured in the way that it is.
Putting it at arm's length from Budget cycles and changes of Government will mean it remains in place.
This will deliver returns to fund social and affordable housing, and work alongside our other housing measures.
I know just how critical this kind of certainty would be for you in this room, and I want to thank so many of you for your support for Housing Australia Future Fund.
We cannot underestimate the value of Australia’s community-housing organisations.
I note there are speakers from the many community-housing organisations in attendance today, including from HousingFirst Victoria, as I recently had the privilege of visiting one of their project sites here in Melbourne last month.
HousingFirst is one of Victoria’s largest community housing organisations, providing over 2,000 people in the Melbourne community with a safe place to sleep.
The Government provided HousingFirst with $18 million in loans and grants through the National Housing and Infrastructure Facility for the construction of social housing homes.
It’s heart-warming to see that money be used so effectively to provide people who are experiencing homelessness with a home.
I also visited the newly opened Marlborough Street project in the suburb of Balaclava, where the construction of 46 new homes has recently been completed.
The Marlborough Street Project illustrates the collaboration of different bodies coming together to create positive outcomes, with the City of Port Phillip council and the Victorian State Government also investing in the project.
During the visit, I not only met and talked with representatives from HousingFirst Victoria, but also with tenants from an existing HousingFirst site.
They gave invaluable insight into their lived experiences of enduring housing insecurity.
Their stories and experiences are a reminder that each person experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness has a story.
We shared the sentiment that more people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness should be able to benefit from what community housing organisations like HousingFirst have to offer.
From my visit, I was happy to learn that the tenants’ experiences with HousingFirst Victoria gave them a sense of community.
Making the case for social and affordable housing
This sense of community is exactly why social and affordable housing is so important.
In the very first speech I gave as Minister for Housing I made this same point.
And I want to make it again today.
Given the scale of the challenges we face in housing, we cannot afford to have people keep saying no to social and affordable housing.
Sadly, too often the same people who claim to be the biggest supporters of Australians facing housing challenges are the ones standing in the way of social and affordable housing – including in our national Parliament in Canberra.
But there is nothing progressive about saying no to social and affordable housing.
We need more mix in housing types in new developments right across the country.
Safe and affordable housing is critical to the security and dignity of all Australians.
It is critical to ensuring that opportunity is shared equally in this country.
It means the midwife I heard from at an affordable housing development in Sydney can live and work in the same place where she’s helping deliver the newest members of her community.
It means the police officer in Western Australia I talked to about his affordable housing property can afford to live in the same community he’s keeping safe.
And at Malborough Street it means vulnerable Australians at risk of homelessness don’t end up on the street they end up in a new home.
Social and affordable housing doesn’t hurt communities, it makes them.
With the Housing Australia Future Fund, the Parliament has an opportunity to massively accelerate the construction of social and affordable homes across Australia.
This won’t just mean a home for more Australians who need it.
It will mean stronger, fairer communities right across the country.
The Albanese Government’s housing initiatives in their sum total provide far more to Australians in need than just four walls and roof over their head.
It provides people with a sense of security, dignity and community.
Housing outcomes directly intertwine with personal, educational and employment outcomes.
The concept of community and leaving no one behind must be at the centre of government policies and programs.
Today is an opportunity to share our experiences, expertise and ideas about how we can build better communities, and a better housing future for Victorians and all Australians.
This is wonderful opportunity for cross-sector consultation.
I hope that that through this conference we can learn from each other, and keep in mind that we are all working towards the same goal of ensuring more Australians can access a safe place to call home, and a community to belong to.