As I said back in February – and on countless occasions since – we don’t have enough homes.
We need to build more of the right homes in the right places.
And we need to build them sooner rather than later.
Australia’s housing affordability challenges are complex.
Some of those challenges – such as a lack of building materials and labour shortages – have emerged in recent years.
Whereas others – such as social housing not keeping pace with demand – have been with us for decades.
Either way, if we want to improve housing outcomes, as Mike Zorbas said, ‘we have to change things up’.
That requires strong industry advocates, and I want to acknowledge the Property Council’s work over many years.
It also requires national leadership and partnerships across all tiers of government, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector.
For its part, the Albanese Government’s agenda represents the most comprehensive national housing policy in decades.
Our housing agenda is ambitious – it has to be to bring about lasting change.
No single measure can solve Australia’s housing affordability, rental, social housing and homelessness problems.
Our actions are not about sugar hits or band-aid solutions.
Instead, we’ve used our first year in government to develop a broad suite of housing reforms.
There are new initiatives and in some cases, we’ve improved existing measures.
This evening I want to talk about the significance of the housing measures in the recent Budget and how they add to our actions to put more people in homes.
Budget housing measures
Opportunity and security were two of the strongest messages coming out of the Budget.
Both apply equally to our vision for housing policy reform.
We see secure housing as a stepping stone to many things.
A stronger sense of community.
A way to improve personal wellbeing.
A path to financial stability.
Secure housing gives people the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Social and affordable housing
In the Budget, we’ve announced that an additional $2 billion in financing will be available to support more social and affordable rental housing.
We’re increasing the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s (NHFIC) liability cap from $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion from 1 July 2023.
It’s significant because it will enable NHFIC to continue to provide lower cost and longer-term finance to community housing providers.
The cap increase will support even more new social and affordable dwellings, on top of the commitments we have already made.
Home Guarantee Scheme eligibility
We announced plans to expand eligibility for the Home Guarantee Scheme.
The First Home Guarantee and the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee are currently available to singles and couples.
Couples are required to be married or in a de-facto relationship.
And applicants must be first home buyers.
That changes from 1 July 2023.
The guarantees will be open to any two eligible borrowers.
It means more people – siblings, parents and their adult children, or friends – will have the opportunity to own a home sooner.
These two guarantees will also be open to those who have fallen out of home ownership and have not owned property in Australia in the past ten years.
We’ve also made a small but important change to the Family Home Guarantee.
Currently applicants have to be single natural or adoptive parents with dependents to apply for the guarantee.
We’ve extended eligibility to include single legal guardians of children as well.
Our final change extends eligibility of all three guarantees to permanent residents, in addition to Australian citizens.
These are sensible changes.
They make sure the Scheme keeps up with the times.
They build on last year’s increase in the number of places available under the Scheme, as well as the establishment of the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee.
In fact, since we took office in May 2022, we’ve helped over 50,000 Australians into home ownership.
Support for renters
A feature of the Budget was that it addressed immediate challenges while setting Australia up for the future.
Support for renters and rental housing supply is an example of that.
We recognise the significant pressures many renters currently face.
We will increase the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 per cent at a cost of $2.7 billion over five years.
This is the largest increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance in more than 30 years.
This measure will help renters keep pace with strong rental growth and relieve cost-of-living pressures, especially for those experiencing rental stress.
Around 1.1 million households receiving the maximum CRA rate will be better off, with an increase in payments of up to around $31 per household.
Supply of rental housing
The Government announced tax incentives to increase investment in build-to-rent projects.
First, we’re reducing the withholding tax rate for eligible fund payments made to foreign residents from managed investment trusts attributed to newly constructed build-to-rent developments from 30 to 15 per cent.
It’s a move the Property Council has championed, saying it ‘will breathe life into this vital asset class, unlocking desperately needed supply.’
Secondly, we’re increasing the capital works tax deduction (depreciation) rate from 2.5 per cent to 4 per cent per year.
This means a new development can be depreciated over 25 years instead of 40.
It will boost the supply of the housing we currently lack the most – places for people to rent.
Because this lack of supply is driving up rents, putting more Australians into housing stress.
There’s also work happening at the highest levels of government.
National Cabinet recently agreed to a range of reforms to support a national approach to the growth of our cities, towns and suburbs.
As part of the agreement planning ministers working with the Australian Local Government Association will report back to National Cabinet in six months with a proposal to increase housing supply and affordability.
Housing ministers have also been asked to report back on reforms to strengthen renters’ rights across the country.
I welcome the efforts of the property and construction industry to address youth homelessness through the Property Industry Foundation.
Too many Australians experienced homelessness on Census night.
That’s why the Budget included a $67.5 million funding boost to assist the sector in tackling homelessness.
This is on top of the one-year $1.6 billion extension of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement we have offered states and territories.
We are also developing a National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
The Plan will set out a 10-year strategy to inform housing and homelessness policy in Australia.
I look forward to working with the states and territories, industry bodies and not-for-profits to deliver lasting change in this area.
The Budget builds on actions we’ve already taken to improve housing outcomes in Australia.
Let me mention some of the actions underway.
We’ve established the National Housing Accord – a shared ambition to boost supply and build one million new well-located homes from 2024.
The Accord involves all levels of government, investors, and the residential development, building and construction sector.
We’ve broadened NHFIC’s remit to directly support new social and affordable housing – and we’re already seeing positive results.
We’ve introduced legislation to change the name of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation to Housing Australia and streamline its functions.
We’ve introduced legislation to permanently establish the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council which will provide independent expert advice.
We’re working on the Help to Buy shared equity scheme to support more Australians into their own homes.
It’s an ambitious plan – it has to be.
Housing Australia Future Fund
At the centre of these plans is our legislation to establish the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund – the single biggest investment in social and affordable housing in more than a decade.
Returns from the Housing Australia Future Fund will help deliver the Government’s commitment of 30,000 new social and affordable rental homes in the fund’s first five years.
This includes 4,000 homes for women and children impacted by family and domestic violence or older women at risk of homelessness.
As you would be aware the legislation to establish the Fund is currently being held up in the Senate.
We’ve heard all kinds of arguments from those opposing the Fund.
It’s too much.
It’s too little.
It’s too soon.
It’s not soon enough.
These excuses will sound painfully familiar for all of you in this room.
The very same excuses get trotted out in local councils across the country to stop the development of more housing.
And no one is louder than representatives from the Greens Political Party.
The Greens are not alone – the Coalition continue to stand in the way of the Housing Australia Future Fund, holding up desperately needed homes.
Labor will not apologise for wanting more for those who need them most.
This debate on the Housing Australia Future Fund has made it crystal clear Labor is the only party who will always back more homes.
We will continue making this case and continue to talk to other parties and Senators about the Housing Australia Future Fund.
We will make this case through our National Housing Accord.
Through our National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
Through our changes to encourage more Build-to-Rent investment.
Through our expansion of the Home Guarantee Scheme.
Through our new financing for social and affordable housing.
And of course through our Housing Australia Future Fund.
We took the Housing Australia Future Fund to the election.
It is backed by numerous stakeholders including the Property Council.
It is backed by housing experts.
It is backed by community housing providers.
It is backed by Housing Ministers from across the country.
It’s time to get on with it, have the vote and get homes on the ground.
Thank you to the Property Council for inviting me.
The recent Budget was about stronger foundations.
It builds on our vision for housing and adds to the reforms underway.
It supports more social and affordable housing.
It helps put more people into homes sooner with changes to the Home Guarantee Scheme eligibility.
It supports renters and rental supply.
And it takes a more focused approach to infrastructure and planning.
None of this would be possible without partnerships.
And we look forward to working with the Property Council and your members.