Canberrans have opportunity to fix housing crisis at ACT election

, ACT Shelter and CHIA ACT joint media release.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), ACT Shelter and the Community Housing Industry Association ACT (CHIA ACT) have today responded to the housing announcements of the three major parties contesting the 2020 ACT election.

Shelter is fundamental to public wellbeing and Canberrans understand that rental affordability, insecure tenancies and homelessness are affecting too many people in our community.

With a shortfall of around 3,000 social housing dwellings, an estimated 1600 people experiencing homelessness, and more than 50 per cent of low to moderate income earners renting privately in housing stress, this election is an important opportunity for Canberrans to vote for affordable, safe and inclusive housing solutions.

Some highlights from our review of the housing initiatives announced by the major parties are outlined below.

The ACT Greens have announced:

  • $200 million investment into new social housing stock over a four-year period, delivering 100 new properties a year over four years.
  • $200 million investment into new community housing that will include planning incentives to encourage the development of new affordable rentals, expected to deliver around 600 new affordable rentals.
  • Increased funding to lift capacity of specialist homelessness services and emergency accommodation brokerage.

The Canberra Liberals have announced:

  • Delivery of 1,200 community housing properties over four years, delivered through a range of mechanism including:
    • co-investment between community housing providers and the ACT Government for new community housing developments
    • lease variation charge exemptions for developments that include long-term leases with community housing providers
    • rent supplementation (similar to schemes in NSW and Vic) for privately owned properties managed by community housing providers
    • land tax and rates exemptions for private landlords head leasing properties to community housing providers.
  • $100 million line of credit to community housing providers.
  • 60 new public housing properties and upgrades to a further 1,000 existing properties.

ACT Labor have announced:

  • Continued implementation of the ACT Housing Strategy.
  • A second ‘Common Ground’ model that blends affordable and social housing in Dickson.
  • An additional 260 social housing dwellings including 60 new class C homes suitable for older Canberrans and people with disability.

We welcome the cross-party support for improved housing affordability at this election. This election presents voters with the opportunity to put housing and homelessness on the agenda and for political parties to commit to meaningful responses that will make a tangible difference in the lives of vulnerable Canberrans.

As stated by Andrew Hannan, Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) National Chair and ACT Regional Committee Chair:

“Canberra has the highest percentage of public housing per capita but the lowest level of community housing per capita in the country. In tight economic times it is important to get the most bang for the buck, and community housing has demonstrated nationwide that it is the most efficient mechanism to grow social and affordable rental supply, with a four-fold impact possible, like-for-like, for every Government dollar invested. With the right policy settings in the ACT, providers could leverage Territory contribution of land (as a grant, equity investment or at discounted price) to attract concessional finance through the Commonwealth enabling greater impact to be delivered, as is occurring in almost all other jurisdictions.

“CHIA ACT members put forward in last November’s pre-budget submission a clear statement of priorities and a range of practical solutions to directly address the key problem, which is the massive undersupply of social and affordable rental homes here in the ACT. It is pleasing to see a number of these solutions inform some of the housing initiatives that parties have put forward, and our members look forward to actively engaging with whichever party or parties form Government, and partnering to deliver solutions to address the rental affordability challenges here in the ACT.”

As stated by Travis Gilbert, ACT Shelter CEO:

“Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released data showing 2,038 Canberrans were helped by our homelessness services in June including 372 kids aged under 10. 2 in 5 Canberrans said their main reason for seeking help was their housing was unaffordable.

“We need more than 3,000 homes to be built right now. More than 12,000 households are sacrificing health and wellbeing, keeping heaters off and turning down social outings because Canberra is too expensive to enable them to meet the costs of living. Parties are at least awake to it. We’ve seen commitments for 1,000 from the Greens and last week, a commitment to incentivise 1,200 affordable and social housing outcomes from the Libs. Labor has focused on modest growth of 260 homes in the public housing supply, extending the asset life of our public housing assets while establishing dedicated Housing First models to end homelessness for rough sleepers.

“Budgets and election promises are about priorities. You can’t do well at school, hold down a job, plan for your future or stay optimistic if you are homeless or one financial crisis away from being homeless. Stable housing is the cornerstone of our health, happiness and hopes for the future. ACT Shelter asks Canberrans to place housing front of mind when making up their mind when they lodge their vote.”

As stated by Dr Emma Campbell, ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) CEO:

“Over the past four years investment in social housing has failed to keep up with population growth and community need in the ACT. Since 2016, the number of social housing dwellings per 100 households has decreased by 4%. There are currently over 2,500 people on the ACT social housing waiting list with an average waiting time of up to 3.5 years.

“Housing is the biggest living cost for Canberra’s low-income households. According to ACTCOSS’s cost of living report our lowest income households spend 35% of their income on keeping a roof over their heads leaving many low-income households in the ACT in rental stress. Addressing housing affordability is one of the most significant things we can do to reduce poverty and inequality in our community.

“An incoming ACT Government must prioritise delivery of the ACT Housing Strategy, including investments in social housing and increased land supply for community and affordable housing. Furthermore, all new private and social housing should be built to standards that meet the needs of older people and people with disabilities so that all Canberrans can live in affordable, safe and appropriate homes.”

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