Australians deserve a housing system that is well-supplied and well-functioning.
Australians deserve access to housing that is more affordable, stable and secure.
It matters at a personal level.
It matters at a national level, now and for the long term.
Proper housing fosters a sense of security, dignity and community.
It impacts our ability to get a job, complete our education, maintain social connections and achieve good mental and physical health.
The Albanese Government has a broad and ambitious housing agenda.
It’s about good quality social and affordable housing that is close to the things we all need – transport, employment, shops and schools.
It’s about helping to increase supply so that Australians can get into the housing market or find rental accommodation at prices they can afford.
It’s about identifying what’s not working and using the levers we have to help improve housing outcomes.
It means working together with the states and territories, local governments, the housing and construction industry, community organisations, and investors.
And it’s great to have representatives from these key areas in the room today.
It means getting the settings right to attract new investment, at scale and for the long term.
When we came to office just over a year ago, we inherited a housing system in need of serious repair after a decade of inaction from the previous Liberal-National Government.
A housing market that is too difficult for many Australians to enter.
Too many Australians are experiencing, or facing, homelessness.
Helping to improve the housing system is part of the Government’s social contract with the Australian people.
Increasing housing affordability and supply is a priority for our Government.
It is critical to our Government’s objective that no one be left behind and no one be held back.
That is why, at every opportunity, we have continued to take action on housing.
It’s also why the announcement of new support for the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund (the HAFF) – the single biggest investment in social and affordable rental housing by a Federal Government in more than a decade – is so welcome.
Not only will the HAFF support 30,000 new social and affordable rental homes over its first five years.
It will help address some of the impediments to institutional investment in housing in Australia.
We have already established the interim National Housing Supply and Affordability Council to provide expert advice.
One of the first things I asked of the Council was a report on the barriers to institutional investment in housing in Australia.
I would like to thank the Chair Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz and the Council, for its considerable efforts in delivering the Report on Barriers to Institutional Investment, Finance and Innovation in Housing.
Commissioning this report was a Government commitment under the National Housing Accord.
We recognised that institutional investors can and should play a much greater role in increasing the supply of stable rental housing in Australia, including for social and affordable.
We needed to understand what barriers might be holding them back.
And possible ways to encourage more institutional investment to increase housing supply.
The Report on Barriers to Institutional Investment, Finance and Innovation in Housing makes 11 recommendations.
Collectively, these recommendations seek to ensure a pipeline of residential projects for institutional investment.
These recommendations are intended to:
- improve the provision of housing services, and
- increase the supply of housing.
I am pleased to say that through the National Housing Accord and decisions taken by National Cabinet last month the Government is already well on its way to implementing one of the Council’s recommendations: the agreement with states and territories to establish housing targets, and for the Government to provide incentives to encourage and support the meeting of these targets.
The Government will consider all the report’s recommendations carefully and consult with key partners, including the states and territories.
I plan to discuss the report with my state and territory colleagues at the next Housing & Homelessness Ministerial Council next month.
Why institutional investment matters
There is a need for a major investment of capital to fund a significant increase in the quantity and diversity of Australia’s rental stock.
Historically – and still today – much of the capital that has built Australia’s homes has come from individual property investors and private developers.
There has also been government investment by the Commonwealth and states and territories in social housing.
But institutional investors have been largely absent.
This Government understands the role institutional investors could play in delivering more housing supply.
The Treasurer has previously spoken about the role of superannuation in helping fund that supply.
Our population of 26 million is one third of one percent of the world’s total.
Yet Australians hold $3.5 trillion in superannuation savings.
The fourth largest superannuation pool in the OECD.
Institutional investment that does occur in housing is primarily in niche sectors such as residential aged care facilities, student accommodation and subsidised affordable housing.
In contrast, institutional investors have sizable investments in Australian commercial, retail and industrial property.
They also have extensive investments in international housing markets.
We need to ensure a fit for purpose framework that welcomes this institutional investment in Australia.
We want to work with investors to increase supply.
Because by increasing supply we will put downward pressure on prices to make housing more affordable for more Australians.
The international experience
Internationally, some economies have well-established or fast developing institutional housing markets.
And ironically, many Australian institutional investors are participating in them.
The United States has the most mature market, supported by its large economy and advanced capital markets, a longstanding system of subsidies for low-income housing and, in some jurisdictions, relatively accommodating development arrangements.
Institutional investment in subsidised housing has grown substantially in the US, with annual transaction volumes standing at around $36 billion (in 2021).
The sector is also growing quickly in the UK, in part due to policy measures that fostered institutional investment.
Evidence from the UK suggests that a suite of interventions reduced many of the barriers that may discourage institutional investment.
- Around 70 per cent of capital to build affordable housing in the UK is currently sourced from private financing.
- Private finance to non-profit registered providers – similar to Community Housing Providers in Australia – stands at around £6 billion.
The evidence is there overseas.
We can develop institutional investment in housing in Australia if we get the settings right.
Barriers to institutional investment
An institutional market for housing can add to the supply of rental stock and improve rental affordability.
In its report the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council concluded that there is a realistic prospect of establishing a significant new investment asset class.
But it has to be supported by policy settings, regulatory systems and financial structures.
The Council’s report will help the Government focus on strengthening the private rental sector and reinstating social and affordable housing as essential infrastructure for cohesive and productive communities.
The recommendations will build on the many federal and state-level incentives that are already in place and mutually reinforcing through the National Housing Accord.
For instance, we are working with the states and territories through the National Housing Accord and National Cabinet to support the planning and zoning reforms that are required to achieve the national target of building 1.2 million new well-located homes over 5 years from 2024.
We have also agreed to deliver an additional 10,000 affordable dwellings – matched by the states and territories – through the Accord.
Additionally, we are:
- providing up to $3 billion through the New Homes Bonus to states and territories that exceed the original target of building one million homes from 2024 to 2029 under the National Housing Accord
- investing $500 million in the Housing Support program. This will help local and state governments kick-start housing supply by funding things like connecting essential services, amenities to support new housing development, or building planning capability.
- Implementing the National Planning Reform Blueprint with the states and territories to build more homes by increasing housing density in well-located areas, streamlining approvals and strengthening call-in powers.
The HAFF is also part of this agenda. In fact, it is fundamental.
The HAFF will provide a secure, ongoing income stream that will support the delivery of tens of thousands of new social and affordable homes, including by giving institutional investors the long-term certainty they need to invest in this critical sector.
Build to rent
Another area the Government is focused on is the build-to-rent sector because it has the capacity to build more rental supply.
Build-to-rent housing is generally defined in Australia as apartment blocks or larger developments purpose-built for rental occupation and held in single ownership as a long-term revenue-generating asset.
It is emerging as an asset class, but currently accounts for only 0.2 per cent of the total housing stock in Australia.
As part of the 2023–24 Budget, the Albanese Government announced two incentives to encourage more investment in new build-to-rent developments to help boost supply in the private rental market:
- One incentive was reducing the withholding tax rate for eligible fund payments from managed investment trusts attributed to newly constructed build-to-rent developments from 30 per cent to 15 per cent.
- The other incentive increased the capital works tax deduction (depreciation) rate from 2.5 to 4 per cent per year.
Industry estimates the build-to-rent reforms will unlock 150,000 apartments over the next decade.
These incentives aim to encourage more institutional investment and construction in the build-to-rent sector, helping expand Australia’s housing supply.
I’m pleased we have already seen a number of new Build to Rent developments announced following our Government’s decision.
And I acknowledge this was a significant topic of conversation yesterday at the Summit.
Broader housing agenda
Of course, while unlocking institutional investment is important, it is also just one piece of a very large and very complex jigsaw.
Increasing the supply of safe, stable and affordable housing requires leadership and partnership across all tiers of government, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector.
The Commonwealth is supporting more people into homeownership through the Home Guarantee Scheme.
The Scheme has already helped more than 67,000 people into their first home since the Albanese Government was elected, by reducing the deposit they need to save for a home.
But we are helping even more Australians into home ownership with expanded eligibility for the Home Guarantee Scheme that started on 1 July 2023.
Now any two eligible borrowers can make a joint application under the First Home Guarantee and Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee.
We’ve already seen friends and siblings purchase their first home together in the two months since these changes were introduced.
These guarantees are now also open to eligible non-first home buyers who haven’t owned a property in Australia in the last 10 years.
Eligibility for the Family Home Guarantee was expanded from single natural or adoptive parents with dependents to eligible borrowers who are single legal guardians of children.
We’re also going to support 40,000 Australian households into home ownership through the Help to Buy scheme when it starts in 2024.
Help to Buy will bring home ownership back in reach for thousands of Australians who have been locked out of the housing market.
And in the Budget, we provided the largest boost to Commonwealth Rent Assistance in more than 30 years, increasing the maximum rate of CRA by 15%.
Social and affordable
On 1 July 2023, we increased the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s liability cap by $2 billion (from $5.5 billion up to $7.5 billion).
This will be used to provide lower cost and longer-term finance to community housing providers through the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator.
The Government widened the remit of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, making up to $575 million available to directly support social and affordable housing as well as finance infrastructure that will enable more housing to be built.
There are already homes under construction today thanks to this decision.
Social Housing Accelerator
In June the Prime Minister announced a new $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator to deliver thousands of new social homes across Australia.
This funding has already been delivered to the states and territories so they can start investing in building new homes right now.
The states are required to commit all funding by 30 June 2025.
The states and territories will have some flexibility in how they permanently boost social housing stock under the Social Housing Accelerator, including new builds, expanding programs, and renovating or refurbishing existing but uninhabitable stock.
The Albanese Government is working with states and territories to develop a new National Housing and Homelessness Plan to identify the short, medium and long-term steps that can be taken to help address housing issues in Australia.
The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement will provide approximately $1.7 billion in 2023–24 to the states and territories for housing and homelessness services.
And an additional $67.5 million of funding has been made available to the states and territories to help tackle homelessness challenges as part of this one-year extension.
Conclusion: working together
We know that we cannot turn around a decade of inaction on our own.
Nor will the market deliver the supply we need on its own.
It is why we have a long-term plan to work with states, territories and industry.
That is why we need to work together.
Increasing the supply of safe, secure and affordable housing requires leadership and partnership across all tiers of government, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector.
This is about making sure we get all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.
So that we are all working together towards the bigger picture.