While an ever-growing number of Australians are struggling to cope with increasing rent and mortgage payments, Labor’s new housing plan will actually make the housing crisis worse. The Greens will never stop fighting for the people the government is leaving behind.
BY MAX CHANDLER-MATHER
Member for Griffith and Australian Greens spokesperson on Housing
illions of renters are struggling to pay the rent, locked out of buying their first home and struggling to keep up with ever increasing bills.
Last year renters forked out a whopping $5 billion extra in rent, and this coming year it will double to an extra $10 billion.
My office has been swamped with stories from people who are struggling to keep their head above water and cope with the increasing rent and mortgage payments.
Stories from families being forced to choose between homelessness or uprooting their entire lives and moving out of the only city they’ve ever lived in. Single mums who are already spending over 40% of their income on rent, staring down the barrel of yet another rent increase. Young families, forced to accept mould infested homes because it’s that or sleep in a tent.
Meanwhile the Commonwealth Bank, after hitting mortgage holders with huge interest rates, has taken home a whopping $5 billion in profits in the last financial year.
It’s pretty clear just how broken our housing system is.
Labor has a new housing plan they want to pass, but the problem is, this plan will actually see the housing crisis get worse. Crucially, Labor’s plan doesn’t invest $10 billion in housing as they’re suggesting. Instead it will gamble $10 billion on the stock market to generate a return, which might be spent on housing.
However, last year this fund actually lost 1.2%. So if Labor had invested $10bn last year, this would have seen a $120 million loss for the Housing Fund and no money spent on housing.
Even where their risky investments generate a return, their bill caps spending on housing at $500 million a year. When you account for inflation, this means spending on housing will be cut every year forever and we will see dwindling returns on a huge investment.
he second problem is that even in the best case scenario, Labor’s plan to build 30,000 social and affordable homes won’t match the increase in need for affordable housing. There’s currently a shortage of 640,000 social and affordable homes and that’s expected to grow by 75,000 over the next five years.
So in five years time, Australia will have a bigger shortage of social and affordable housing, more people without a home and a worsening crisis.
Even if this plan works perfectly, the number of people looking for an affordable place to live will increase to nearly three quarters of a million people. Meanwhile, there’s absolutely no plan for renters, and no plan to address the rental affordability crisis and skyrocketing rents.
The Greens have said for months that we can’t wave through a bill which will actively make the housing crisis worse, and set us back for the next decade. This could be our one opportunity to take real action on the housing crisis and we need Labor to come to the table.
We want to see a guaranteed investment of $5 billion in public, community and affordable housing, every year, indexed to inflation, with an extra $1 billion set aside for First Nations housing over five years. This would allow us to build hundreds of thousands of good quality homes across Australia for not just the most vulnerable, but for the hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses, carers and other workers who can’t find an affordable place to call home.
e urgently need a freeze on all rent increases and a doubling of Commonwealth Rent Assistance so we can give immediate relief to renters in housing stress.
Given Labor remains committed to spending $12 billion every year on tax concessions for property investors and $254 billion over the next decade on the stage 3 tax cuts, these demands are incredibly moderate.
Labor has also tried to claim there are construction capacity constraints, which will limit the number of social homes the government can build over the next few years. But actually there is currently a massive decline in private home construction, freeing up the skills and materials we need to build homes. This means now is the perfect time to invest in social and affordable housing, putting the skills and materials to work building homes people need, not luxury apartments no one can afford.
We want to negotiate in good faith to pass a Bill that will actually start to fix things, but right now Labor is pushing the bill through the House of Representatives without fixing the problems. Here’s the thing though, their way will see more renters struggling to make ends meet, more people waiting for social housing, and more people in need of an affordable home.
The fact is, Labor doesn't have the numbers to pass their Housing Bill in the Senate, and as much as they’d like us to give up, we won’t stop fighting for the millions of people this plan leaves behind.