Today marks a turning point.
With the Bills I introduce today, this government is turning the page on a wasted decade of national housing policy in Australia.
A decade of dithering;
A decade of delay;
A decade of failing to address Australia’s housing affordability challenges.
The consequences of the previous government’s failure to act seriously on housing has led to significant challenges across the country.
We know this because we see and hear it every day –
And home ownership out of reach for ordinary Australians.
Housing problems now widespread and visible for us all to see.
And across our country’s cities and towns, the dream of a secure home has become so much harder.
Harder for the 116,000 Australians experiencing homelessness.
Harder for workers forced to move further and further away from their place of employment.
Harder for businesses that want to hire but are finding there just isn’t somewhere affordable for new workers to live.
And harder for the hundreds of thousands of Australians on social housing waiting lists with no certainty and no place to call home.
Behind these housing statistics are the devastating stories of people – Australians who don’t have a place to call home.
The growing number of older women who, through no fault of their own, can’t afford to put a roof over their head.
Vulnerable women and children who are escaping family violence but are being turned away from emergency accommodation.
And some are our nation’s veterans, who have bravely served our nation abroad, but can’t find somewhere affordable to call home in Australia.
For too long these terrible stories have been ignored by the Australian Government.
But today is a turning point because instead of another wasted decade, this government won’t waste a day working to meet these challenges.
At the centre of our new government’s housing agenda, and enshrined in this Bill, is the creation of the Housing Australia Future Fund.
The structure of the Fund will protect it from the whims of future governments. The Fund will generate returns over the long term, which will allow it to provide annual disbursements to deliver a secure pipeline of funding for social and affordable housing in Australia.
This will provide critical certainty to Australia’s community housing providers and the scale of the investment will invite new contributions to social and affordable housing from institutional investors.
The Fund will be the end of the housing one-offs from the Australian Government.
It will be the end of Australian Government housing programs that make problems worse instead of better.
Instead, the Housing Australia Future Fund will be the start of an enduring promise from the Australian Government – that more Australians should have a safe and affordable place to call home.
Those of us on this side of the House came to government with another promise, and one to the Australian people which we intend to keep: a better future.
The introduction of today’s Bills keeps faith with this promise.
I will now outline the functions of this Bill. The Housing Australia Future Fund is one aspect of the government’s commitment to improving housing supply and affordability. Central to this is the aim of increasing the supply of social and affordable homes and investing more in acute housing needs.
As announced in the October 2022-23 Budget, disbursements from the Housing Australia Future Fund will be used to fund social and affordable homes and other acute housing needs. In the first five years of operation, the government intends to use disbursements from the Housing Australia Future Fund to help build:
- 20,000 homes to provide social housing – 4,000 of which will be allocated to women and children leaving domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness; and
- 10,000 affordable homes for frontline workers like police, nurses and cleaners who kept us safe during the pandemic.
The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, which will be renamed as Housing Australia, will be responsible for administering the majority of disbursements from the Housing Australia Future Fund to help build the 30,000 social and affordable homes in the Fund’s first five years.
Over the same time period, the Fund will also provide:
- $200 million for the repair, maintenance and improvements of housing in remote Indigenous communities;
- $100 million for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children leaving domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness; and
- $30 million to build housing and fund specialist services for veterans experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.
The Bill establishes the Housing Australia Future Fund and provides an initial credit of $10 billion. Disbursements from the Fund will be made available for the purposes of funding social and affordable homes and other acute housing needs.
Under this Bill, annual disbursements will be capped at $500 million per year to protect the balance of the Fund and ensure a sustainable source of funding into the future. The legislation will require five-yearly reviews of the operation of the Act, which will assess the extent to which the Fund is meeting the social, affordable and acute housing needs of Australians.
The Housing Australia Future Fund will be managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians, which has a proven track record of managing investment funds on behalf of the people of Australia and maximising returns over the long term.
The Bill requires the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance to issue directions setting out the government’s expectations as to how the Fund will be managed and invested by the Board, including setting a benchmark rate of return for the Fund.
Any disbursements from the Fund will require formal government approval.
As part of the annual budget process the Housing Minister, in consultation with the Treasurer and the Finance Minister, will be responsible for bringing forward proposals for the government’s consideration of the allocation of disbursements to deliver on the government’s targets for social and affordable homes and acute housing needs.
The bulk of annual disbursements from the Fund will be allocated to Housing Australia to deliver on the government’s social and affordable housing commitments. Allocations to Housing Australia will recognise that a minimum annual amount over the long term is likely to be required to deliver on those commitments.
In relation to the acute housing needs, the Housing Minister will also consult the other designated Ministers – the Minister for Social Services, the Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.
The Housing Minister will also consider advice from the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council before bringing forward spending proposals. The government established the interim Council by administrative arrangements from 1 January 2023. The Council will be established in primary legislation as part of this housing package.
The Council will be an independent and expert advisory body to the government, to inform spending from the Housing Australia Future Fund and provide policy advice on housing supply and affordability. It has already begun building a strong evidence base to support the Commonwealth in developing housing policy and position the government to provide an important leadership role in increasing housing supply and improving housing affordability in close collaboration with the states and territories.
The Bill will also establish the Housing Australia Future Fund Payments Special Account to make grants in relation to acute housing needs. Following a decision of government to allocate disbursements from the Fund, the designated Ministers will request that the agreed amounts be debited from the Housing Australia Future Fund Special Account and credited to the Housing Australia Future Fund Payments Special Account for the purpose of making grants.
The designated Ministers and the Housing Minister will also be able to request that a grant to a state or territory be channelled through the COAG Reform Fund. Payments to Housing Australia will be transferred to the Housing Australia Special Account for the purposes of making grants and loans for social and affordable homes and acute housing needs.
All funding decisions will comply with the Commonwealth’s established rules and guidelines for grants. Detailed information on grants under the Housing Australia Future Fund will be published online.
Too many Australians struggle to secure safe and affordable housing, which is why we are committed to establishing the Housing Australia Future Fund along with other significant housing reforms such as the new National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, a National Housing and Homelessness Plan, and the new Help to Buy scheme.
The introduction of this legislation builds on the work we have already begun to address Australia’s housing challenges:
Our action to immediately unlock up to $575 million from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility for social and affordable housing;
Our decision to bring forward the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee by three months, which has already helped more than 1700 Australians into home ownership;
The formation of the interim National Housing Supply and Affordability Council, which has already begun its work to deliver independent advice to government; and
National Cabinet’s decision to re-establish the Housing and Homelessness Ministerial Council and the three meetings I have already held with my state and territory colleagues.
Delivering on the establishment of the Housing Australia Future Fund along with the other housing reforms will mean more Australians will have a safe and affordable place to call home.
Full details of the Bill are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum.
Home is the foundation from which we build our lives.
Without a stable home, people – no matter their age – struggle to live in health, stay in training or education, or find and keep jobs.
That’s not good for them, for their families, for their communities or for our country.
I know this, because I have lived it.
The Prime Minister knows this, because he has lived it.
It’s why this government is serious about making sure more Australians have a safe, affordable place to call home.
This is about working together.
It’s about partnerships.
Yes, it is ambitious.
Because it has to be.
It’s the only way we’ll tackle the challenges we face as a nation.