Housing Affordability - 12/05/2021

12 May 2021


I rise in very strong support of the motion by the member for Macnamara in relation to housing and also want to congratulate him on the excellent work he's been doing in this area. The great Australian dream is something that all of us have grown up with—the idea that one day, with a bit of hard work, we might own our own home. It's an aspiration that, no matter our political persuasions, no matter our background, we all share. It makes sense, too. Safe and secure housing is the basis for everything else. It should be seen as a human right in this country, and I echo the words of the member for Dunkley in her speech about this previously. Safe and secure housing allows you to have a sense of independence, a connection with your community and a place that is yours, in good and bad times. Nothing has brought that message home more strongly than going through COVID in the past 18 months. People's homes became places where they could be in lockdown, where they could be safe. The pandemic really highlighted, in a range of ways, the risk to people who don't have secure housing.

For our children's generation, though, I'm genuinely not sure that this great Australian dream will be achievable. In fact, with rising housing prices, it isn't achievable for most young Australians today. Australia is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, one that this government have failed to act on in any way, and their latest budget, last night, is a clear example of this. Rates of home ownership continue to decline. Housing stock is at an all-time low and rents at an all-time high. We have enormous social housing waitlists, and on top of that a growing number of Australians are facing homelessness. For far too many Australians, the idea of owning a home is now completely unachievable. For 43 per cent of Australia's low-income earners, over 30 per cent of their income goes into paying rent and keeping a roof over their heads. When you're paying over a third of your income for housing you are officially in rental stress. When you're paying that much for rent, how are you supposed to even begin to save for a deposit, especially when the government has forecast no wage growth?

The problem here in Canberra is particularly serious. If your only income is a disability support pension, JobSeeker or youth allowance, there are no affordable private rentals in the ACT—none. Less than five per cent of accommodation on the market in the ACT is classified as affordable. Canberra is now the most expensive city in Australia to rent in—not Sydney, not Melbourne but Canberra. To its credit, the ACT government are working extremely hard to address these issues, but they can't do it alone. They're investing in more social housing, providing more rental subsidies to those in public housing and opening up more parcels of land for development. But it might be nice if the federal government could help out.

For all its spending announced in yesterday's budget, the government has done essentially nothing to address the housing crisis. Australia currently has a shortage of 400,000 social housing properties. The Treasurer could have stood up last night and said, 'The government will fund the construction of social housing Australia wide.' Did he do that? No, he didn't. Instead, the government are putting their fingers in their ears and screaming, 'I don't hold a hammer, mate'.

What did they actually announce when it comes to housing? The government announced the Family Home Guarantee, a scheme that will allow single parents to put down a two per cent deposit on a home loan. This entire policy will cost the budget a grand total of $300,000. Not $300 million, even—$300,000.

An honourable member: What a Joke!

Ms Payne: What a joke. There are a million single parents in Australia right now, yet this policy will only help 2,500 per year. The Prime Minister and all his ministers will each earn more than the entire yearly budget for this program next year.

Then we have people in here like the member for Goldstein who would have all of us raid our super accounts to put down a deposit. That is not a solution. It's just the creation of another problem where we allow people to rob their own retirement savings to try to have secure housing. We need to urgently address the worsening housing crisis in Australia. It's abundantly clear that the only way we can do this is to elect a bold, ambitious Labor government that's not afraid to take on the big issues. The Liberals have absolutely abrogated their responsibility to make our lives better, and they don't deserve your vote.