This week our nation is once again marking Homelessness Week.
Across the country Homelessness Week is a time for reflection and a time for action.
This year’s theme is ‘it’s time to end homelessness”.
Everyone in this Place knows that Australia is facing a significant number of housing and homelessness challenges, with very real consequences for individuals and families.
Although the rate of people experiencing homelessness has remained relatively stable over the decade to 2021, based on the last Census results, across Australia there were around 122,000 people experiencing homelessness.
This is a number that we must bring down.
We also have to remember what this number represents.
We must remember who it represents.
This number is made up of sons and daughters; brothers and sisters; friends and families - they are people.;
We must continue to humanise these numbers, so we are reminded of the true costs of housing insecurity.
Because all Australians deserve to feel safe and secure.
All Australians deserve stability.
This Government recognises that sadly for too many Australians, this is not a reality.
It is why we are so passionate about creating real, lasting change.
Change spearheaded by our ambitious policies that are designed to directly address the challenges of housing security in Australia.
Policies designed in consultation and collaboration with states and territories and the housing and homelessness sectors.
To enact change that effectively targets the issues surrounding housing insecurity, the voices of those with lived experience must also be heard.
It is for this reason that our Government places a strong emphasis on collaboration.
We are committed to providing safe, accessible and affordable housing so that more Australians have stability.
The Albanese Government understands this.
It’s why our agenda is broad, as well as ambitious, designed to address Australia’s housing challenges.
We are taking a holistic approach that aims to strengthen a range of areas across housing and homelessness policy.
The Housing Australia Future Fund is a key part of this Government’s ambitious agenda to improve housing outcomes and reduce housing insecurity in Australia.
The Housing Australia Future Fund will be the largest single Commonwealth investment into affordable and social housing in more than a decade.
It will help tens of thousands of Australians in desperate need of the housing security they need to build a better life and to realise their full potential.
The Fund will deliver 30,000 new social and affordable dwellings for those in need, with 4,000 of the homes reserved for women impacted by domestic violence and for older women at risk of homelessness.
I welcome the support the Fund has already received from frontline organisations like National Shelter, Homelessness Australia, the Community Housing Industry Association and Everybody’s Home.
They all know how vital this piece of legislation is.
Our housing agenda includes the new $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator to deliver thousands of social homes across Australia. This investment will build more homes, for more Australians, in more parts of our nation.
We are working on delivering the new National Housing Accord which includes federal funding to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over five years from 2024, to be matched with up to another 10,000 by the states and territories.
We are increasing the maximum rate of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 per cent, the largest increase in more than thirty years.
We are providing an additional $2 billion in financing for community housing providers for more social and affordable rental housing through the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation.
We have already unlocked up to $575 million from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility with social and affordable homes already under construction thanks to this decision.
We have delivered a $1.7 billion one-year extension of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement with States and Territories, including a $67.5 million boost to homelessness funding over the next year.
The formation of the interim National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, has already begun its work to deliver independent advice to Government.
I have already held four meetings with my state and territory Housing colleagues to ensure we are all working together.
And of course states and territories have committed through National Cabinet to improve renters' rights which I have also been working my state and territory colleagues on.
These significant changes will deliver positive and practical outcomes for those who need it most.
Another plank of our agenda is the development of a National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
The Plan will set out a shared vision on tackling the country’s housing challenges across the responsibilities of different levels of government.
It will aim to deliver lasting change, together with states and territories, for Australians facing housing challenges by setting out key short-, medium- and long-term reforms needed to improve outcomes across the entire housing spectrum, from homelessness and rental stress to home ownership.
The Plan will not shy away from the significant challenges in the housing and homelessness sector, but face them head on, identifying actions that can be taken to help improve the housing landscape in Australia.
We know we cannot achieve this alone.
The Plan is already being developed in close collaboration with state and territory governments and local government associations – the three tiers of government working together.
But we must also engage in meaningful consultation with those on the front lines of housing and homelessness services, experts in the sector, and most importantly, people with lived experience of housing insecurity.
We are ready to listen to help shape a vision to guide future development of housing and homelessness policy in Australia.
And this week we have entered the next phase of making our Plan a reality.
I was very pleased to release the Issues Paper for the National Housing and Homelessness Plan.
This formally commences the public consultation and stakeholder engagement needed to develop the Plan.
Acknowledging the housing and homelessness challenges we currently face, the Issues Paper is a resource to promote discussion and provide guidance for people and organisations when formulating their submissions.
The Issues Paper seeks views on areas including homelessness prevention, early intervention and services; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing; social housing; and home ownership.
Through considering a range of perspective on these and other areas, the goal for the Plan to provide a better understanding of the current state of housing and homelessness in Australia, and the drivers of homelessness and housing insecurity throughout urban, regional, rural and remote Australia.
And most importantly, it is for the Plan to set out strategies for how all levels of government can work more effectively together, and with the private and community sector, to better support people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
This is a plan for the country that we all will own.
Consultations on the Issues Paper opened this week and will run until 22 September 2023.
Over the next 6 weeks, the Australian public and stakeholders are invited to share their stories, experiences and expertise.
It is through such extensive collaboration that we can ensure the Plan will set out a shared national vision and strategy for how we can better support those in need.
We want to hear from as many people as possible, and I welcome the organisations who have already responded.
Like the Property Council, who stated the federal government are leaning into the challenge.
And the Urban Development Institute of Australia who congratulated the government for, and I quote, “ starting the important conversation”.
And I welcome the comments from the Liberal Government in my home state of Tasmania, who on Monday states – and I quote - “we welcome the National Housing and Homelessness Plan Issues Paper released today to mark the start of Homelessness Week”
The Government is committed to improving housing outcomes for Australians – ensuring more Australians have a safe, secure and affordable place to call home.
Work on the Plan will not stop us delivering our broad and ambitious housing agenda.
We know we have to be ambitious because our challenges are significant.
Homelessness Week highlights these challenges but invites us to act.
Which is exactly what our Government is doing.
We’re working hard every day to end homelessness.
Because all Australians deserve a safe, affordable place to call home.