Minister Collins interview on ABC AM


TOPICS: Opening of applications for Housing Australia Future Fund and National Housing Accord; Cost of living.

KIM LANDERS, HOST: Minister, how much money will be allocated in this first round of funding and how many homes will be built in the first year?

JULIE COLLINS, HOUSING MINISTER: Well, thank you, Kim. We're talking about 40,000 social and affordable rental homes in the first five years of the Housing Australia Future Fund and the National Housing Accord. So, we anticipate that there will be thousands, in terms of these applications. What we want to do is work with the states and territories, with the community housing sector to see how many homes we can get off the ground as quickly as we can.

LANDERS: Do you have a rough estimate?

COLLINS: Yeah, we've been pretty clear that we will guarantee returns from the Housing Australia Future Fund of $500 million a year. And of course, we've put $350 million in the Budget over the five years for the National Housing Accord. So, we've been pretty upfront about that. But what we want to do, obviously is work with the states and territories and work with the community housing sector to see how many houses we can get up as quickly aswe can.

LANDERS: So, that's the money. Do you have an estimate of the number of properties that you reckon could be constructed in twelve months?

COLLINS: Well, we are working with the sector and with the construction industry in terms of what constraints they've got, but we anticipate there will be thousands of homes. We obviously want to make sure that we get these homes up as quickly as we can, but they need to be well located homes and they need to be well constructed homes.

LANDERS: If we look at the housing market more broadly, the federal government's got this goal of getting 1.2 million private homes built over five years. Now, that's about a quarter of a million each year. In the year to November, there were only 166,000 building approvals, the lowest in a decade. Doesn't that signal that this goal is going to be very hard, if not impossible to reach?

COLLINS: Look, we always said it was an ambitious target. We need to be ambitious, Kim, if we're going to turn around housing in Australia. We have per thousand people, less dwellings than the OECD average. We need to get that up. We need to turn around a decade of very little action in terms of making sure that we get homes on the ground, but importantly, the construction constraints, making sure we have enough trained people in the trades and making sure we have enough supply, in terms of the supply chain issues that we've been experiencing. We've been working hard right across government to make sure, and, of course, working with the states and territories, and we have $3.5 billion on the table to work with the states and territories for them to change planning and zoning to get more homes on the ground, more quickly. We're talking about funds for local and state governments in terms of infrastructure and critical infrastructure to make sure that we can get those homes out of the ground more quickly. We do anticipate working with the states and territories that we can turn this around. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but we need to be ambitious, and we're not frightened of ambition to make sure that we turn this around.

LANDERS: But the supply fix to ease the housing crisis, it's not going to happen in a hurry, is it?

COLLINS: Well, we always said it wouldn't be easy. We said there's no silver bullet and we need to be ambitious. And we are ambitious. We need to turn this around as quickly as we can, and that's what we're doing. You've already seen states and territories go out and consult on planning and zoning changes and announce some changes because we all understand that we need to be working together to turn this around. No government alone is going to solve this. We need everybody working together and we need to be working with the construction sector as well.

LANDERS: Minister, housing is an important part of the cost of living, and cost of living is a major concern for most people. What extra cost of living relief is being considered in this year's federal budget?

COLLINS: We obviously understand that many Australians have been doing it tough. So, particularly as the Housing Minister, I understand, of course, that people with mortgages and people that are renting have been doing it tough, which is why we delivered, as part of our cost of living measures, the largest increase in the Commonwealth Rent Assistance in more than 30 years. With the increase that people received last September. It's also why, of course, we're providing the states, have
already given the states, $2 billion in additional funds for social housing. We anticipate that we'll build around 4000 social houses. Some of those houses are getting underway in the first quarter of this year. We've told the states and territories we need them to expend that money in the first two years. So, we're getting on with delivering in terms of our cost of living measures. We're also, of course, still delivering through this year. Things like our Fee-Free TAFE, things like our bulk billing incentives, things like cheaper medicines, and indeed, some of our energy bill relief is still flowing through to households and small businesses. We have obviously said, and the Prime Minister's made pretty clear, that we'll look at other cost of living relief because we understand that Australians have been doing it tough.

LANDERS: Minister, thank you very much for joining AM.

COLLINS: Thank you.