TOPICS: Housing Australia Future Fund legislation; the Albanese Government’s ambitious housing agenda.
HOST: You had a big week last week trying to get through the Housing Australia Future Fund through Parliament. It's been blocked by the Greens and another crossbencher. Now they have made a number of demands about housing. On all of those, what do you think is the most negotiable?
JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND MINISTER FOR HOMELESSNESS: Look, we've been negotiating for months with a lot of Senators in regards to our Housing Australia Future Fund bill. What we have seen unfortunately, late last week, is when we wanted to bring the bill on for a vote, both the Greens senators and the Liberal senators block our attempts to do that. This is a $10 billion fund. We're talking about the single biggest investment in social and affordable housing from a federal government in more than a decade. We're talking about 30,000 social and affordable rental homes that we want to build in five years once the fund is up and established. This is in addition to all the other housing measures that we are doing. So I would say to Liberal senators and Greens senators in the Senate: we took this to the last election, we're trying to legislate it, and they should get out of the way because there are too many people in Australia today relying on those homes. There are too many Australians who are doing it tough that need us to get on with the job.
HOST: To some of the specifics of things they're asking for, particularly the Greens. They’re asking for substantially increasing the amount going to the Housing Australia Future Fund, they're asking to remove the cap about how much that future fund can actually pay out to fund the establishment of those social and affordable homes. Now, have you - you haven't moved on either of those. Are you considering doing that?
COLLINS: What we’ve done is at every opportunity we've added to our election commitment. We unlocked $575 million last year. We have homes under construction across Australia because we did that. With our first Budget we, of course, had our Housing Accord - another $350 million for another 10,000 affordable rental homes from the federal government, to be matched by the states and territories with another 10,000 affordable rental homes. In the last budget, we're talking about an additional $2 billion in financing for our National Housing Finance Investment Corporation, that should build up to 7,000 additional social and affordable homes. We had increases in the Commonwealth Rent Assistance in the Budget and, of course, changes to Build-to-Rent, including some depreciation changes to try and add to supply. We've had on the national agenda renters' rights at the National Cabinet. We've had planning, and there's a call for planning ministers to be meeting before the end of the year to actually look at what reforms they can do in each state and territory to help get more supply on the ground more quickly. We are adding at every opportunity. We're doing things, all of the things that are being asked of us, right across the board.
HOST: Sorry, just to interrupt - the question was specifically about the Housing Australia Future Fund. You have outlined a range of measures there. But this is specifically something that the Greens want. Will you consider adding to that fund?
COLLINS: We took a $10 billion fund to the last election. It's the single biggest investment in a decade from a federal government in social and affordable homes. We want to get on with the job. We're talking about 30,000 homes.
HOST: So is that a no? Just on the specific question.
COLLINS: We're in negotiations and discussions. We're not ruling anything in or out today. What I'm saying to you is the Greens senators and the Liberal senators should pass this bill in the Senate, because too many Australians need us to get it done. It is very significant in terms of our housing agenda, but it's not the only thing we're doing.
HOST: Just on the issue of renters rights, you're talking about that at National Cabinet. Now, the Greens want a national rent freeze, that's the purview of the states and territories to do. It's not a federal government responsibility. They have suggested doubling the $1.6 billion going to states and territories with the condition of making it contingent upon freezing rents. You're said the government is open to extending that money. Would that be with the condition of freezing rents? Is that something you’re considering?
COLLINS: We have only just begun negotiations on the next Commonwealth-State housing agreement. What we've had so far is four meetings with state Housing Ministers. Under the former federal government, in the entire five years of their agreement, they had no meetings. We're getting on with the job. We're working as collaboratively as we can with state and territories, and also with local government. As part of the National Housing Accord, what we want to do is line up the National Housing Accord with a 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan with a new Commonwealth-State housing agreement from 1 July next year. We are currently just starting negotiations with the states and territories. What we've said though to the states and territories, and they're lifting, they're also doing their important work. They are investing in social and affordable housing, and if we're all lifting and we are all trying to add to supply, we'll slowly start to turn this around.
HOST: When I speak to people in the housing industry, developers and builders, one of the biggest issues is zoning and planning. Those aren't federal responsibilities. This is part of the issue with the housing problems in Australia. So the BCA have a big paper this morning, and they want the federal government to incentivise states to make planning more efficient. Is that a good idea?
COLLINS: It's things that we're actually already doing. We’re doing them through the National Housing Accord already. I welcome support for some of the measures we have implemented, things like changes to Build-to-Rent, things like changes to depreciation and working with planning ministers at the state level and state governments about improving the time it takes to get more homes on the ground right across the country. We already started that important work as part of the National Housing Accord that the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and I have been working hard on.
HOST: OK. Julie Collins, thanks for being on.
Media contact: Stephanie Anderson 0431 344 056