Minister Collins interview on ABC Tasmania Mornings with Leon Compton

E&OE Transcript

LEON COMPTON, HOST: Julie Collins is the federal Housing Minister. Minister, good morning to you.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Good morning, Leon, and good morning to your listeners.

COMPTON: So, really interested in trying to dive in with you this morning about what these promises made at a federal level last week mean for Tasmania. The target is 1.2 million new homes nationally. What does that mean for Tasmania in terms of hard numbers of new houses?

COLLINS: Thanks, Leon. What we're talking about here is a very ambitious policy to build more homes in Australia. What we know is that we don't have enough homes. That's due to changes in the way people want to live. But also we started pre pandemic with less homes per thousand people than the OECD average. So, we haven't built enough homes in terms of our growing population for a while. So, what we've said, obviously, is we had an initial target from 1 July 2024 over five years for a million homes. What the Premiers and the Prime Minister have agreed is we will provide incentives for states and territories that overshoot that target – the million target - and try to get to 1.2 million homes. That is what the incentive of the $3 billion is about. We want to make sure that states and territories get some support to do the reforms they need to do to make sure that we get more homes on the ground more quickly around the country. These things that they could do, for instance, are such things as planning and zoning changes, medium density where it's appropriate, but making sure of course that we have community consultation early in this process. They could look at inclusionary zoning, which is whereby we have more social and affordable homes in every suburb when developments occur, looking at housing design - all that sort of stuff, and making sure that what we have are better communities for all Australians. What we want is more Australians to be able to live close to services and close to where they work.

COMPTON: So, how many new homes out of this target - if it's 1.2 million nationally, is the hard number we're looking at for Tasmania 24,000?

COLLINS: Yeah, I know you're after a hard number today, Leon, but we are working with states and territories on what that number looks like. It will generally be on a per capita basis. But I think the Commonwealth government certainly, and some of the bigger states, understand that in some of the smaller jurisdictions such as the Northern Territory and Tasmania they do need some extra support to reach targets. So we will be working with the states and territories between now and 1 July next year when the accord kicks in, the start date, to actually work with them about what does that number look like. But for every house over that number, the Tasmanian government will receive a $15,000 incentive payment.

COMPTON: Right. So, there's a bonus to outperform effectively? There's an extra incentive. How does it work?

COLLINS: And that's for every state and territory. So, there's a $3 billion pool, and that is up to 200,000 homes at $15,000 per home. If two states and territories overshoot their target, the $3 billion pool still remains. It’s up to states and territories to make the reforms necessary to get to the 1.2 million homes.

COMPTON: Okay. It's important to understand this in ways that mean over the longer term, we can hold governments accountable for hitting those targets, relate those back to the state, and talk about the real issues that Tasmanians are facing - finding an affordable home over their head at the moment. So, a lot of new language out of this meeting last week. Is the Housing Australia Future Fund dead? Has it been replaced by the National Housing Accord, the new Home Bonus, the Housing Support Program, that were all mentioned out of last week's meeting? Is the Housing Australia Future Fund as a policy now dead?

COLLINS: Absolutely not. No. This is in addition. This is just the Federal Labor Government working with other states and territories and with other tiers of government to get more homes on the ground, understanding how critical housing is and the challenges right across the housing spectrum. So, our policies are from homelessness to public and social housing all the way through to incentivising and supporting home ownership. We need to support Australians right across the housing spectrum, and that's what our policies are designed to do, understanding the challenges. We have been working with the state government. Obviously, we've given them, handed over the $50 million for the Social Housing Accelerator for instance. The Tasmanian Government, since I've been Minister, has received $122 million with the Social Housing Accelerator and the housing agreement monies. They've got that money to invest now in social and affordable housing here in Tasmania. So, we're working with them. I look forward to making some announcements with the state government in future months about particularly that $50 million and where it's going to be invested.

COMPTON: And so where do you want to see it invested?

COLLINS: Well, what we want to see it invested in is homes right across the state. The state government have put a proposal to us on how and where they want to invest it, and we'll work with them with that. It's important to understand that obviously the Commonwealth Government doesn't have the powers - we don't build the homes - but we do need to work with other tiers of government. I think the state governments are saying to me certainly, and saying publicly, that it's good to have the Federal Government back at the table when it comes to housing, because the former government didn't do anything for a decade. We've got a big job to turn this around. We understand how complex it is, which is why we're working right across the spectrum. I mean, our commitment under the Housing Australia Future Fund is still for Tasmania to get 1200 of those 30,000 homes in the first five years if we get that bill through the Parliament, and we'll continue to try and engage and get that bill through the Parliament.

COMPTON: Okay, so that is still on the table. You talk in your press releases about well-located homes, unquote well located. What is a well located home in your mind, Minister?

COLLINS: Well, that is a home that is close to services, whether that be public transport, schools, hospitals. It is in regional towns, it is in cities. It's in those areas where we can have a bit more density as opposed to continuing to spread out. Sometimes it's appropriate to have greenfield sites, sometimes it's not appropriate. It's about making sure that the homes are well located and close to services. We think that makes better communities. We think that it's easier for people to get to and from their work and where they want to work or go to school.

COMPTON: How well do you think we're doing that as a state at the moment?

COLLINS: Well, I guess it depends on where you live. This is about trying to work with the other tiers of government, which is what the $500 million on the table announced last week is about. That's also accessible to local governments, as well as state governments, about making sure that we have better integrated communities, that we do that planning better than we have in the past. It's about working with other tiers of government to try and make communities much more liveable for Tasmanians. I mean, we've talked a lot of numbers today, Leon, but really, this is about people, as you said earlier. This is about too many Tasmanians, too many Australians not having a safe, affordable place to call home. And one of the best parts of my job is getting out and talking to tenants - new tenants who have just been put into homes, particularly social homes. And I had the privilege last week or two ago to meet some up on the North West coast of Tasmania in a project that's been funded by two tiers of government working together with a community housing provider. And to hear Lauree tell me that for the last couple of years, she's been couch surfing. She wants to get in to go back to school. It's changing people's lives is what it's about. It's about making life easier for people who've had a tough time.

COMPTON: You're on Mornings around Tasmania. Julie Collins is the federal Housing Minister. And one of the issues we have is that house prices continue to rise in ways that make it harder and harder for younger people to afford. Minister, why do we still let people who live overseas, who don't have residence here, buy houses in Australia?

COLLINS: There are actually some quite strict laws around foreign ownership, Leon, that I don't think a lot of Australians understand. They do need permission to be able to purchase in Australia. They do need to prove that they need to have a home to live in while they're here, to be able to do that. We also have a really strong vacancy tax on properties. We don't have the powers nationally to do it at a state level, but we do in terms of foreign ownership, so we do have that. And that revenue actually was one of the ways that we are funding the Help to Buy shared equity scheme. So, we have been making sure that those laws are enforced and that I think it's a very small number of actual sales in Australia, I can't remember the figures off the top of my head, that are actually sold to foreigners. It's very, very low.

COMPTON: In Tasmania we've turned over a lot of our suburbs to, rather than being suburbs to places for people to live in recent years, turned over a lot of those areas for the tourism industry effectively through short stay accommodation. I noticed it got a mention in your communique. Has the Federal Government got any intention of doing more to return suburbs to residents rather than to tourism through short stay accommodation?

COLLINS: Yeah, we certainly know that short stay accommodation, there's now evidence that it is having an impact in some communities. So, what the Premiers and the Prime Minister have agreed is that states and territories will look at what interventions and what things they can do to make sure that short stay accommodation is appropriate in terms of number, but is also appropriate in terms of locations and where it is. So, that will be a decision for the states and territories. But it was included in the communique because there's an understanding at the state level and the Commonwealth level that these are impacting in some communities. One of the things we really did, obviously, is significant reform in terms of renters’ rights at the National Cabinet last week. What we want to make sure is that as we improve renters’ rights for renters, that we don't have more people then move into short stay accommodation because of that. What we want to do is try and have renters also be able to have some secure tenure and be able to go about their lives safely without fear of eviction too. But we also want landlords to be able to understand more clearly what their obligations are and what their rights are, as well as tenants.

COMPTON: Appreciate you talking with us this morning. Thanks, Minister.

COLLINS: Thanks very much, Leon.