Queensland Housing Summit

Thank you for the invitation to join you today.

This Summit provides an opportunity for us to put the spotlight soundly on the current housing and homelessness issues facing too many people in Queensland and too many Australians.

Housing is central to the security and dignity of all Australians.

According to the 2016 Cenus, there were over 116,000 people across Australia experiencing homelessness. 

Almost 22,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Queensland.

Of these, Australia-wide, over 51,000 were homeless due to severe overcrowding and 8,200 were rough sleepers.

In 2020-21, over 41,000 people in Queensland were supported by Specialist Homelessness Services.

As some of you may know, I am based at the other end of the country in Tasmania. 

While our two states may be separated by some distance, the issues in my home state that have contributed to housing challenges are not too dissimilar to Queensland. 

The impact of strong interstate migration.

The impact of tourism on housing affordability, particularly in regional communities. 

The challenges of ensuring housing is affordable in regional and remote communities to attract and retain workers.

Of course these challenges are not new. 

But it is clear the pandemic has made them worse.

And for almost a decade we did not have a federal government that was willing to take a leadership role in addressing housing issues.  

Which is exactly why we are here today. 

The issues are clear. So is our call to action.

The Albanese Government is committed to developing and implementing an ambitious housing reform agenda, bringing national leadership and a strong focus to stable and affordable housing.

The reforms we will introduce require all levels of government to work together with key stakeholders across the housing spectrum, to help ensure fewer Australians experience homelessness.

We understand that different states have different housing markets and many states have already taken significant actions to improve housing supply, affordability and the delivery of social and affordable housing.

I acknowledge the work Queensland has already done, particularly through its housing strategy, the Quickstarts program and your own Housing Investment Fund.

We want our initiatives to build on these efforts and recognise different states circumstances.

I am pleased to report that all state and territory Housing Ministers remain committed to working collaboratively to deliver ambitious national reform.

In July this year I held the first meeting of State and Territory Housing Ministers in almost five years. 

It was great to catch up with Ministers, including Minister Enoch, and I was incredibly excited by the willingness of state and territories to come to the table with fresh ideas.

But we didn’t stop there. 

We held another meeting in September and National Cabinet recently agreed to re-establish the Housing and Homelessness Ministerial Council.

Housing affordability was also on the National Cabinet agenda as well as the Treasurers recent meeting. 

This Council will provide a forum to progress critical housing reforms, ensuring we have the architecture in place to drive change for all Australians.

I look forward to reconvening the discussions at our next Housing and Homelessness Ministers’ Meeting later this year. 

A key part of our housing reform agenda is the creation of the National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

This plan will set out the reforms needed to help more people in Queensland to buy a home, make it easier to rent and help to support more Australians who are at risk of, or experiencing homelessness.

Broad and thorough consultation will be undertaken with key stakeholders, including not-for-profit and civil society organisations, industry bodies, superannuation funds and experts in housing, finance and planning and urban development. 

Our housing reform agenda will make inroads to ensuring more Australians can easily access safe, affordable housing. 

When a person has received secure housing, it is less likely they will return to homelessness. 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Specialist Homelessness Services data, from 2018-19 to 2020-21, 670 fewer people returned to homelessness after a period of more secure housing.

One of the many initiatives we are focusing on is improving the supply of social housing, in order to give Australian’s the security they deserve.

We are moving quickly to invest in social and affordable housing by unlocking up to $575 million through the National Housing Infrastructure Facility. 

This will bolster our commitment to establish the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, which will build 30,000 new social and affordable dwellings within its first five years.

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

10,000 of these will be affordable homes for our frontline workers such as police officers, nurses and cleaners.

In addition to this, a portion of the investment returns, $330 million, will be made available to fund acute housing needs for women and children impacted by family and domestic violence, older women; veterans at risk of homelessness and for remote Indigenous housing.

As many of us are aware, the reasons people find themselves at risk of or experiencing homelessness are as varied and complex as the people experiencing it. 

This is why a key goal of our National Housing and Homelessness Plan will be to identify ways to improve housing outcomes for all Australians. 

This will require a coordinated approach in partnership with all state and territory governments to ensure we are doing our best for those who need it most.

Of course, it’s not just Australians experiencing homelessness who are struggling with the state of housing in our country.

In 1971, 64 per cent of Australians aged between 30-34 owned their own home. That number has now dropped 14 percentage points to 50 per cent in 2021.

One of our reforms will be the Help to Buy shared equity scheme, which will make it cheaper and easier for eligible Australians to own their own home. 

The scheme will assist homebuyers to purchase a new or existing home with an equity contribution from the Government. This will mean Australians can buy a home with a smaller deposit, smaller mortgage and smaller mortgage payments.

It currently takes home buyers in Brisbane nearly five years to save for a deposit.

And for people in regional Australia, it is taking them on average a full decade to save for a house deposit. 

The new Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee will help up to 10,000 regional Australians get into their first home with a deposit of as little as five per cent. 

The Government will guarantee up to 15 per cent of the purchase price for eligible first home buyers, meaning regional Australians looking to buy can avoid paying costly mortgage insurance.

Increases to the cost of living, among other factors, are also putting the pinch on renters across Australia.

In 2019-20, close to 45 per cent (44.9%) of Queensland’s lower income renter households paid more than 30 per cent of their fortnightly income on housing costs.

The Albanese Government is also committed to creating a National Housing and Homelessness Plan which will set out key short, medium and longer term reforms to make it easier for Australians to find a safe and affordable place to call home.

I believe that with continued cooperation between all levels of Government, we can achieve our shared goal of improving the lives of thousands of Australians in Queensland.

By tackling the increasing rate of people experiencing homelessness in Australia, and increasing the amount of social and affordable housing across the country, we can work towards ensuring all Australians can enjoy the security and dignity a home brings. 

Thank you again for inviting me to speak today, and I hope you have a productive Summit.