A national housing strategy is needed to fix Australia’s “failing” affordable housing system, according to a report from academics at the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and Curtin University.
The report, released by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute on Tuesday, called for a coordinated “whole-of-government” approach and decisive federal leadership.
It said Australia’s housing policy was “weak and/or inappropriate” and public funding was inadequate
Australia has a shortfall of more than 200,000 affordable dwellings. In New South Wales there are more than 60,000 households on the social and affordable housing waiting list, and more new dwellings were constructed between 1990 and 1995 then 1995 and 2010.
The report’s authors said Western Australia, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory had developed effective housing plans that the federal government should follow. Overseas, the UK and Canada had also set up national strategies that Australia should learn from.
The report praised the WA government for its 2010 affordable housing strategy, which delivered its target of 20,000 affordable dwellings five years ahead of schedule.
South Australia also created 5,485 affordable dwellings between 2005 and 2015 through inclusionary planning – a policy that requires new developments to provide a certain percentage of affordable houses, or gives incentives to do so.
Under the SA scheme, the 5,485 affordable houses made up 17% of the state’s new housing supply.
In NSW, a similar 2009 scheme created only 2,000 affordable rental dwellings in Sydney, less than 1% of the total new developments over the same period.
The report’s authors stressed that inclusionary planning – which relies on private development – should “never be seen as an alternative” to the government’s own duty to provide funding and construction for affordable homes.
Instead they called for an independent national housing advisory body, and for a long-term, “resilient” strategy that could “survive a change of government”.
“A key lesson from both the NSW program and parts of the ACT strategy was the difficulty in sustaining the housing outcomes after the original political champion(s) had moved on,” the report said.
They also praised the ACT’s housing strategy – which provides for an affordable land price scheme – and the Indigenous housing program developed in the east Kimberly by the Wunan Foundation.
Previous national schemes were found to have had an effect but all had been discontinued after a few years. A 2009-12 initiative provided $5.7bn of funding and constructed 19,700 new dwellings nationally.
The 2008 national rental affordability scheme provided tax incentives for investors to build new housing and rent at below-market rates – creating 36,700 privately owned affordable houses – but the scheme was discontinued in 2014 and rents will start to become uncapped in 2018.
Since 2017 the national disability insurance scheme has provided for the construction of 16,000 affordable housing units designed for people with severe functional impairment or very high support needs, costing $700m annually.