Housing is not a commodity – it’s a human right and should be treated as such. So it's clear we need to completely rethink the way we approach housing in Australia.
By Mehreen Faruqi
Everyone deserves a place to call home, a roof over their head and a bed to sleep in at night. Housing is a human right and a matter of human dignity.
There is no question that we are deep in the throes of a housing crisis that gets worse year on year. Some people are making huge profits from housing while others are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
While rents dropped and governments were able to get people into safe housing when the pandemic hit, this was only a temporary respite. We are now back to square one with homelessness on the rise and house prices out of control. We need a completely new approach to housing.
People wait for over a decade to access public housing, with around 155,000 households currently on public housing waiting lists in Australia. Thousands of women and children are being forced to choose between returning to violent partners or becoming homeless. Moreover, thousands seek help from homelessness services every year. We know the housing and homelessness crises disproportionately impact First Nations people, older women, migrants and many others who are on the margins of society.
Despite nearly a third of households renting their home, government after government has ignored creating better rental availability in favour of landlord profits. A generation has been locked out of home ownership, unable to save enough for a deposit, while they continue to face surging property prices and battle greedy property developers and speculators. In fact, it takes nine years for someone on an average income to save for a deposit to buy a house in a capital city. In Sydney, prices have been rising at an unbelievable rate of more than $1000 a day.
Our housing system is fundamentally broken. It's clear we need to completely rethink the way we approach housing in Australia.
That’s why I was thrilled to launch the Greens’ bold new policy to build one million publicly-owned, affordable, accessible, high-quality and sustainable homes.
One million new public and community homes will dramatically reduce inequality in Australia.
These homes will be constructed and managed by establishing a Federal Housing Trust which will work in partnership with states, territories, local councils, First-Nations community-controlled organisations and community housing providers.
750,000 of these homes will be new public and community houses to rent to people who are eligible for public housing. This will clear all public housing waiting lists, end homelessness and provide housing security for everyone in crisis or need.
125,000 of the homes will be rentals available to people who have been priced out of where they need to live. Essential workers like teachers and nurses, as well as others, will be able to rent a home from the government for either 25 percent of their income or market rent, whichever is lower.
And our innovative new shared equity ownership scheme will provide 125,000 homes for people who have been locked out of home ownership, providing them the opportunity to own their first home. People may purchase up to 75 percent equity in a home they want to live in, in a location they want to live, for $300,000.
These shared ownership homes will be owner-occupied. When people want to leave, they can sell back their equity share to the Federal Housing Trust. This means that houses remain in public hands permanently and will always be available to those who have less opportunity to own a home. It also means people can own a home at an affordable price and build equity over time.
It’s also crucial to invest in improving current public housing stock so that people can live in high-quality, safe, accessible homes. The Greens plan includes a capital grants fund to provide state and territory governments with $1.5 billion each year for three years, and then $2.5 billion over the next seven years for public housing improvements.
The benefits of this build will be enormous. Building one million homes over 20 years across cities, towns, regions and remote areas will create 135,000 new decent, secure jobs in construction and services. The build will reduce poverty, place downward pressure on rents and house prices, and stimulate the economy. Most importantly, it will provide a home for everyone who needs it.
This policy is bold. It requires a big public investment. But this plan is well within our reach. By making billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax and winding back handouts to big polluters, we can build a better life for all of us.
This radical change will also meet the challenges of the mess created by decades of failure by successive governments: huge underinvestment in public and social housing, and unfair tax breaks like negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount that further fuel house prices.
We just need to have the political will to make it happen. Homelessness and housing insecurity are not inevitable. They are choices governments make. It’s time to turn a new page.
Nobody should be without a home. Whether you own a home or rent, our housing system should work for people, not profit. Everyone deserves a secure, safe and affordable place to call home. The Greens want to make this a reality.
Senator Mehreen Faruqi is the Australian Greens Housing spokesperson.