Minister Collins doorstop interview, Hobart


TOPIC: Hobart housing opening, the Housing Australia Future Fund.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: I want to thank Russell and Bob for what they're doing here for vulnerable Tasmanians and Tasmanians living with a disability. What we see here today is a great example of what can happen when you get a grant, an investment, and how it can be leveraged for future investments. As Bob has said, the federal government investment here means that a house like this will be able to be built every year from the income from these houses being on the ground.

And that's why our Housing Australia Future Fund is so important. What we want to do with the Housing Australia Future Fund is to get more institutional investment into getting more homes on the ground more quickly. It's about leveraging other tiers of government, about institutional investment, about not-for-profits and charity investments, to make sure that we can get as many homes on the ground as quickly as possible.

But as we've heard from Russell and Bob here today, they need to be the right homes in the right places, for people that need it most. And we need to make sure that the properties that we're investing in are suitable for the needs of the tenants, but also importantly that they are there for the long term. They're sustainable, and that they are close to where people live and work.

JOURNALIST: And can you talk to me about the dollar figure behind this? Just how much funding is needed to get this project going?

COLLINS: Well, this was obviously done with a direct grant to the organisation through the federal government. What we're talking about with the Housing Australia Future Fund is a $10 billion investment. What we're talking about is $10 billion and the returns every year being there in perpetuity to invest in social and affordable housing. We anticipate that that will be around $500 million every year being invested in social and affordable housing right across the country, including here in Tasmania. What I would say is that we want to get that fund up and running as quickly as we can. So we want to make sure that we work with community organisations like Bob's, that we work with institutional investment, but also that we work with other tiers of government so that we can get this fund through the Parliament and get these houses on the ground as quickly as possible. We know right across the country that there is a supply issue. We need to get more homes on the ground. They need to get the right houses in the right places. And what we want to do as a federal government is to work with other tiers of government to get those homes on the ground as quickly as we can.

JOURNALIST: If that – hi, it’s Elliot here. If that Fund can't pass parliament, how much of an embarrassing look will that be for federal Labor?

COLLINS: We obviously continue to talk to crossbenchers in the parliament. What we want to do is get this Fund up and running as quickly as we can. We took this Fund to the last election. The $10 billion is the single biggest investment in social and affordable housing in more than a decade. This is the first time there's a federal government there for a long time, for almost a decade, that wants to step up to the plate. But it is just part of the broader suite of things we are doing federally. We're doing the Housing Australia Future Fund, but that is not all we're doing.

I mean, just a week or so ago, I signed off on a letter of offer of $38 million to the state government for one year, for housing and homelessness in Tasmania for one year. That is nationally $1.6 billion per annum that the federal government is investing with states and territories into housing and homelessness right across the country. That is on top of the National Housing Accord, where we're talking about is another 10,000 affordable homes from the federal government, matched by states and territories. Another 10,000 - so 20,000 out of the Housing Accord from 2024. We’re talking about as part of that Accord getting more supply of every type of house on the ground, and an aspirational target of 1 million homes across the country in five years. We also of course have immediately unlocked, whilst we work on all of this, $575 million, and I have already made announcements - including one here in Tasmania on the Northwest coast - of where we're getting money on the ground quickly to get homes built as quickly as we can.

JOURNALIST: The Housing Australia Future Fund has been described as inadequate. Would you consider increasing the amount of money invested into it, and why are you so sure it is the best way forward?

COLLINS: Well, we took to the election a commitment of $10 billion. It is the single biggest investment from a federal government in social and affordable housing in more than a decade. When you put it together with all of the other things we're doing - we're talking about, as I said, immediately unlocking up to $575 million. We're talking about the National Housing Accord. A new Commonwealth State Housing Agreement. We're talking about a new National Housing and Homelessness Plan. We're talking about the Supply and Affordability Council, the creation of Housing Australia. What we want to do is to work with other tiers of government, work with the construction sector, work with the community providers to get more homes on the ground as quickly as we can. We have a suite of policies also to help people get into their own home that we have been working on, including the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee. We are looking right across the entire housing spectrum, because we have fundamentally a supply issue in Australia where we need to get homes built.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.

JOURNALIST: I just have some other general ones, if - you might want to step out there – just on other issues. The latest Domain rental report is out and it points to some huge price jumps, especially in Melbourne and Sydney, but all over the country really. What's your reaction to that and what can be done to drive down rent?

COLLINS: We obviously are concerned about the affordability of housing, whether it be for renters or whether it would be for people with increasing mortgages with interest rates. And we know that this is such a big issue across the country, which is why we have such an ambitious housing policy, as I said, right across the board. Whether it be trying to help people into their first home, whether it be more social and affordable housing, whether it be working with the construction sector to try and increase supply across the country, we know that this is a really serious issue. Essentially, we need more supply to help put downward pressure, whether it be on rents or mortgages. What we need is, we need more dwellings on the ground in Australia.

JOURNALIST: And should Tasmania's government here step into the rental market to stop rent prices exploding?

COLLINS: Well, obviously the federal government doesn't have the levers that states and territories have when it comes to things like rent. I would say to states and territories for them to look at data and evidence about what does work and what doesn't work, which is also why our Supply and Affordability Council will be so critical - to actually look at the data and the evidence and what levers each tier of government has available to them to improve supply and affordability in Australia. That is why we need to get that Council up and running. We've got an interim council there, but obviously part of the legislation currently before the Senate is for an independent statutory authority for the Supply and Affordability Council to be there long term.

JOURNALIST: And do you feel for families experiencing rental stress?

COLLINS: We know it's really tough for families, in terms of affordability, but even in terms of actually being able to find somewhere safe, affordable to call home. Which is why I would say to our senators of every colour and persuasion, don't delay this bill in the Senate any longer. We need to get the Housing Australia Future Fund through the Senate. We will get on with our other reforms and the other things we're doing, but obviously leveraging this investment that we're seeing the type of here today is so critical to so many Australians. So I'd say to our senators right across the board, please support the Housing Australia Future Fund, because people right across Australia need it to happen.