Minister Collins address to the National Housing Conference

Acknowledgments omitted.

It’s been just over 18 months since AHURI lasted hosted a National Housing Conference.

A lot has happened since that last virtual conference in Melbourne and so I am sure you are excited to be meeting in person for the next few days here in Brisbane.

Of course, just a few months after your last conference our Government was elected.

We were elected with a series of policies to help transform housing in Australia.

And I’m proud that we’ve already undertaken a significant amount of work to make these policies a reality.

But given the serious challenges we have inherited in housing we haven’t just been progressing the agenda that we took to the last election.

We have been adding to it at every opportunity.

So today I did want to reflect on the work we have undertaken to date.

But I also want to share with you where we are heading.

And how the expertise of the people in this room, and across the housing sector, will continue to be critical in our Government’s decision making.

We want to bring everyone together because we know partnerships are fundamental to getting things done in housing.

And we know why this action is so important.

Housing challenges

When this Government came to office just over a year ago, we inherited a housing system in need of serious repair.

The housing market is too difficult for many Australians to enter.

And too many Australians are experiencing or facing homelessness.

I’m sure the numbers are not new for people in this room but they do tell the story.

The Intergenerational Report recently said for those aged between 30 and 34 years, home ownership fell by 18 percentage points from 1981 to 2021.

Around 122,000 people were estimated to be homeless on Census night.

And nearly half (46.7 per cent) of low-income earners who rent, spend more than 30 per cent of their weekly income on housing costs.

Behind these statistics are the people who live with the consequences.

People like Lauree, whose story I’ve told in Parliament, who I met on the North-West Coast of Tasmania earlier this year.

Lauree had just moved into a new home – the result of a partnership between the Federal Government, the Tasmanian Government and Housing Choices Tasmania.

Before she’d moved in Lauree had told she’d been waiting for a secure home for two years.

Two years of having to put her life on hold while she waited for a roof over her head.

But having a home makes a big difference.

It is the foundation for Australians to build a better life.

And Lauree told me the new home she had meant she could finally go back to school and get the education she always wanted.

I have heard stories like this over and over as Minister and they are a constant reminder to me of the work we still need to do to improve housing for Australians.

This is what drives me every day to ensure our ambitious housing agenda does deliver real change for Australians facing housing challenges.

We know this agenda is substantial and ambitious. But it has to be.

Taking action early

This is why we have already acted in several crucial areas.

National Housing Accord

In 2022, we established the National Housing Accord.

The Accord brought together all levels of government, institutional investors and representatives from the residential construction sector to agree actions to unlock quality, affordable housing supply over the medium term.

As part of the Accord, we agreed with our partners to set a national aspirational target to build one million new, well-located homes over five years from 2024.

In August 2023, National Cabinet – which brings together the Commonwealth and states and territories – agreed to extend this target to 1.2 million new, well-located homes over five years.

National Planning Reform

At this meeting National Cabinet agreed to a National Planning Reform Blueprint to help meet this target.

This includes actions to unlock housing supply and improve affordability such as planning, zoning, land release and other reforms.

New Homes Bonus

At the National Cabinet meeting, the Albanese Government also committed $3 billion in performance-based funding under the New Homes Bonus.

The New Homes Bonus will pay state and territory governments for delivering more than their share of the one million well-located homes target agreed under the National Housing Accord. This will help states to boost housing supply and increase housing affordability across the country.

Housing Support Program

The $500 million Housing Support Program will also help local and state governments to reach this ambitious housing target.

The Program will fund things like connecting essential services or building amenities to support new housing developments.

This Program is about making sure we have the essential services, community infrastructure and planning capability to make it happen.

Helping renters

National Cabinet agreed to A Better Deal for Renters to harmonise and strengthen renters’ rights across Australia.

This includes:

  • Developing a nationally consistent policy to require genuine reasonable grounds for eviction.
  • Moving towards limiting rent increases to once a year.
  • Phasing in minimum rental standards.

These changes will make a tangible impact for the almost one-third of Australian households who rent.

The May Budget included new incentives to support the supply of rental housing by improving taxation arrangements for investments in build-to-rent accommodation.

And our Government has also helped around 1.1 million Australians with the rising cost of rent by increasing the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 15 per cent at a cost of $2.7 billion over five years.

Housing Australia Future Fund

Last month saw the culmination of many months of collaborative debate and engagement when the Senate passed the Housing Australia Future Fund.

The $10 billion Fund will be the single biggest investment in affordable and social housing in more than a decade.

It will be a secure, ongoing pipeline of funding for social and affordable rental housing, that will help generations of Australians.

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 and older women at risk of homelessness.

Social Housing Accelerator

We are also committed to building more social housing through the new $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator.

The Accelerator will 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 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 states are required to commit all funding by 30 June 2025 to help deliver rental homes for people on social housing waiting lists across the country, as soon as possible.

Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator

In our latest Budget we increased the liability cap of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) - soon to be renamed Housing Australia - 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.

When I was here in August I had a site tour in north Brisbane.

The community housing provider BlueCHP utilised funding from the Queensland Government and the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator to deliver new social apartments for jobseekers and single parents with a child under 12.

It was a great opportunity to speak to the new residents about the difference these homes have made to their lives.

National Housing Infrastructure Facility

Last year, we widened the remit of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility. This made up to $575 million available to directly support social and affordable housing, to enable more housing to be built.

We already have homes under construction because of this decision. We also committed an additional $1 billion in funding for the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, to build more social housing for Australians who need it.

One year extension of National Housing and Homelessness Agreement

Our Government has also committed to a one-year extension of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement which will provide approximately $1.7 billion in 2023–24 to the states and territories for housing and homelessness services. 

This included an additional $67.5 million of funding to assist the sector to help tackle homelessness challenges as part of the one-year extension.

Home Guarantee Scheme

We have also expanded the Home Guarantee Scheme to help more Australians into home ownership.

Last year we introduced the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee three months early which has already helped thousands of Australians into home ownership.

Under our Government the Home Guarantee Scheme has already supported over 73,000 people across Australia to purchase a home sooner by reducing the deposit they need to save for a home.

We are helping even more Australians into home ownership with expanded eligibility.

Now any two eligible borrowers can make a joint application under the First Home Guarantee and Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee.

These guarantees are 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 dependants, to eligible borrowers who are single legal guardians of children.

These changes are making a huge difference in people’s lives.

Help to Buy

And our new shared equity scheme, Help to Buy will bring home ownership back into reach for even more Australians.

We’re working to establish the scheme next year to support up to 40,000 Australian households purchase a home of their own.

For states to participate, legislation will need to be passed for the scheme to operate in their jurisdiction.

I’m pleased that in August all states agreed at National Cabinet to progress legislation so the scheme will run nationally.

Next steps – A Way Forward

Given the significance of the challenges we face, we cannot afford to lose sight of the future.

So I was pleased to hear the theme of this year’s conference is ‘A Way Forward’.

Because while our Government has been working hard to deal with the immediate challenges we are facing in housing, we are also looking forward.

For too long housing policy in Australia has been far too guided by the here and now, instead of the future.

And progress on housing delivered by one Government has been undone by another, particularly at the Commonwealth level.

This is why our Government has set about doing things differently.

We are setting up durable policy initiatives – like the Housing Australia Future Fund and the National Housing Accord.

But we are also creating new institutions to provide ongoing, expert advice on housing policy and the delivery of our housing policies.

Housing Australia

And I’m pleased to announce that our Government will take another major step forward on progressing this work when Housing Australia officially begins on 12 October – this week.

Housing Australia will be right at the centre of our Government’s housing agenda.

Housing Australia has a wide remit and we have worked to ensure it has the tools available to get the settings right for attracting new investment at scale and for the long term.

I have also made a series of appointments to bolster the skills and experience of the Housing Australia Board.

This includes the appointment of Ms Carol Austin as Chair, and Mr Nigel Ray and the Hon Richard Wynne as board members.

Bolstering the skills and experience of the Board will be crucial as Housing Australia assumes responsibility for the delivery of much of our Government’s new housing programs.

This includes social and affordable homes through the Housing Australia Future Fund and the affordable housing that will be delivered through the National Housing Accord.

These new programs, and Housing Australia’s stewardship of them, will be critical to addressing housing challenges over the long term.

But it is also critical that we have the right strategy in place to drive the new work of Housing Australia.

And this is where I want to appeal to you all directly.

National Housing and Homelessness Plan

As you would be aware, earlier this year our Government kicked off consultation on a new National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

The Plan will identify the short, medium and long-term steps that can be taken to help address housing issues in Australia.

My goal is for the Plan to provide a better understanding of the current state of housing and homelessness in Australia.

It will look at the drivers of homelessness and housing insecurity throughout urban, regional, rural and remote Australia.

It will also look at housing supply and home ownership.

And most importantly, my ambition is for the Plan to set out a clearer strategy for how all levels of government can work together, and with the private and community sector, to better support people facing housing challenges.

While I don’t want to pre-empt your thoughts on the Plan, I do want the Plan to outline what a more inclusive housing system should provide to Australians.

And, most importantly, how we need to partner over coming years to achieve this.

I am not looking to set-up another stopgap – the Plan must help deliver real change over the next decade.

It is through such extensive collaboration that we can ensure the Plan does just this.

Setting out a national vision and strategy for how we can support those in need.

I strongly encourage everyone here to contribute, as this feedback will be invaluable in helping us to understand areas of focus for inclusion in the Plan.

It is with the insights and opinions of experts, industry leaders, state and territory governments and those on the front line that together we can deliver a well-informed Plan.

So if you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit the DSS website and contribute your views using the Issues Paper as a guide.

You can share your views by either responding to short-form questions or lodging a written submission.

Consultation is well underway on the Plan with multiple events having taken place in both metropolitan and regional locations.

So far events have been held in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Events will be held in the Northern Territory next week and New South Wales the following week.

National Housing Supply and Affordability Council

In helping to develop the new Plan, I will also be consulting closely with the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.

The Interim Council is already delivering expert advice to Government to help guide our housing agenda.

This includes the Interim Council’s first report on how we can overcome barriers to institutional investment, finance and innovation in housing.

Our Government knows institutional investors could play a key role in delivering more housing supply, which is why we are taking this report seriously.

I would like to thank the Interim Chair Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz and the Interim Council for their efforts in delivering the report last month.

And I look forward to hearing more about Susan’s presentation later today at the Conference.

Setting up the interim Council on January 1 this year showed our Government was serious about ensuring our housing agenda is underpinned by expert advice.

But we know this kind of advice cannot simply be a one-off or provided on an ad hoc basis.

And so today I am also pleased to announce that, with the recent passage of our housing legislative package, legislation to establish a permanent statutory body will commence in late December.

I will appoint the permanent Council shortly after that.

The legislative package didn’t just help to make the Council a permanent body, it also enshrines the independence of the Council.

This will mean the Council provides full and frank advice on the issues across the housing spectrum.

As I have said, our Government is very serious about addressing Australia’s housing challenges and I know this new permanent, independent body will be critical to this work.

It again shows that we value to expertise of people like you in the room today.

Conclusion: partnerships matter

And I have no doubt that all of you here with us here today share the same passion and drive I do when it comes to providing safe and affordable homes for all Australians.

Maybe some of you, like me, have experienced public or community housing firsthand. Or you may have needed to squeeze as much out of every dollar as you can to make rent.

We know that we cannot turn around a decade of inaction on our own.

It is why we have a long-term plan to work with states, territories, not-for-profit organisations and industry.

That is why we need to work together. To make sure we continue to collaborate to find the best way forward.