National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association (NATSIHA) launch

Good morning and thank you for the warm welcome.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Lands on which we meet today – the Ngunnawal people – and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

I would also like to extend that acknowledgement and respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here with us today.

I am delighted to be here as Minister for Housing and Minister for Homelessness at the launch of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association (NATSIHA). 

As the first and only national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing in Australia, NATSIHA will be undertaking vital and welcome work.

We know that housing issues and homelessness are pressing problems for many Australians, and have a disproportionate effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Census, Indigenous Australians are over seven times more likely to experience homelessness, largely due to severe overcrowding in remote Australia.

We cannot underestimate the value of safe, stable and culturally appropriate housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities.

As acknowledged in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, better life outcomes are achieved when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say in the design and delivery of services that affect them.

The Albanese Government therefore welcomes the opportunity to work in true partnership and in the spirit of shared decision-making with Australian NATSIHA on housing and homelessness issues that impact on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The work of NATSIHA will optimise overall health and wellbeing and improve employment opportunities, access to education, connection to the community and sense of home.

And so, to NATSIHA, I’d like to say thank you. I would also like to acknowledge the work NATSIHA has done in co-leading the development of the first Housing Sector Strengthening Plan. This is a significant body of work which provides a blueprint for the Indigenous housing sector.

When it comes to Australia’s housing situation, we know it’s not an issue that can be mended overnight.

It is a task that requires input and support from not only the Australian Government, but also the sector, community housing providers, local governments and importantly, state and territory governments.

I have now chaired two meetings with the Housing Ministers of states and territories to discuss how we can work together on the housing and homelessness challenges Australia faces.

These meetings have been very productive - helping foster a positive and collaborative relationship while we work towards our aligned goals and outcomes.

It has been a great opportunity to design and deliver our housing reform agenda to address the challenges across the housing spectrum, from homelessness to housing and rental affordability.

My colleagues have also discussed their specific priorities, difficulties and housing strategies in their jurisdictions, as we know each state and territory face a different set of challenges.

The Ministers also provided key insights, including how our initiatives will boost and leverage their recent investments to increase social housing.

These major investments include an estimated 15,500 social housing homes that will be added by 2024.

A significant contribution that will see great progress for the community and will help many of those at risk of homelessness.

Next financial year, to further support states and territories in improving housing and homelessness outcomes, we also expect to invest around $5 billion in Commonwealth Rent Assistance.

This will help eligible Australians pay their rent in the private market or in community housing.

We are also providing $1.6 billion through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to support state and territory governments to deliver housing and homelessness services.

The Agreement recognises no single government can solve the housing situation on their own.

This highlights the importance of working together with states and territories to achieve better housing outcomes.

As the states and territories hold many of the supply levers, a strong relationship across all levels of government is critical to achieving our commitments outlined in our housing agenda.

These meetings are one of the many foundational steps we are taking to reform housing in Australia, and I am committed to working closely with the states and territories to make it easier for all Australians to access safe and secure housing.

We will continue to engage with states and territories to help further refine and implement our housing agenda.

We know housing is central to the wellbeing of all Australians and secure shelter underpins social, economic and personal outcomes.

It is a key priority for this government and is why we have committed to an ambitious and comprehensive housing reform agenda.

These reforms include the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, which will build 30,000 social and affordable homes within its first five years.

20,000 social housing properties will be built, of which 4,000 will be allocated for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness.

10,000 affordable homes will be allocated to frontline workers like police, nurses and cleaners.

In addition to this, a portion of the investment returns, approximately $200 million, will be made available to fund remote housing repair, maintenance and improvement across Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The Albanese Government has also committed $100 million for urgent housing and infrastructure on Northern Territory homelands to improve living conditions for thousands of people living on homelands.

In today’s climate, we recognise the difficulties of getting into the property market which is why we are introducing the Help to Buy shared equity scheme.

We have committed to providing an equity contribution of up to a maximum of 40 per cent of the purchase price of a new home and up to a maximum of 30 per cent of the purchase price for an existing home.

This will make it cheaper and easier for 10,000 eligible Australians to own their own home, allowing for the purchase of a home with a smaller deposit, smaller mortgage and smaller mortgage payments.

We will announce further details on this program in due course.

The Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme is another commitment that supports Australians enter the property market.

Under the Scheme, the Government will guarantee up to 15 per cent of the eligible homebuyer’s home loan.

This means eligible regional first homebuyers can purchase a home with a deposit as little as five per cent without the need to pay lenders mortgage insurance.

We know this significant investment will make a positive impact for those living in regional Australia.

I also acknowledge Minister Burney who has portfolio responsibility for the Indigenous Home Ownership Program (administered by Indigenous Business Australia) which has approved over 12,000 home loans for Indigenous Australians.

While it has only been a few months since stepping into the role of Minister for Housing and Minister for Homelessness, I am so pleased we have hit the ground running.

As some of you may know, I was Minister for Housing and Homelessness in 2013.

Nearly a decade on and housing is a still a prevalent issue in our society, exacerbated by a lingering pandemic and rising costs of living.

That is why real leadership is so important and we are here to deliver.

By committing to a comprehensive housing agenda, we are bringing national leadership and a strong focus on stable and affordable housing for all.

To help ensure the Commonwealth plays a leadership role in increasing housing supply and improving housing affordability, we are establishing the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.

Experts from a diverse range of relevant fields including finance, economics, urban development, residential construction, urban planning and social housing sectors will be called on to advise the Council.

A key focus of the Council will be also be to provide advice on the creation and establishment of the National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

The Plan will set out will set out the crucial short, medium and longer term reforms to make it easier for Australians to buy a home, easier to rent, and put a roof over the heads of more homeless Australians.

It will be developed in partnership with key stakeholders, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We strongly believe that a national issue requires a national plan.

And this plan along with strong leadership will enable us to tackle these issues together with states and territories.

Under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, the Commonwealth has also committed to establishing a Housing Policy Partnership by the end of 2022.

This Partnership between all governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives is intended to identify opportunities to work more effectively across governments, reduce gaps and duplication, and advise on policy and implementation of actions to address the housing target of the National Agreement.

The partnership will identify work needed to achieve real outcomes to progress the housing target and set measures, actions, and areas of accountability.

We look forward to working closely with NATSIHA on the Housing Policy Partnership as it will co-chair the group along with my department.

In closing, the commitments I have outlined today reflect the ambitious reform agenda we intend to undertake to ensure all Australians have access to safe, stable and affordable housing.

We look forward to working in collaboration with the states and territories, as well as the sector, including NATSIHA to deliver our housing agenda and make a difference in the lives of many Australians who need it most.

Thank you.