Prime Minister earmarks further $575m for social housing

By Annie Kane

Up to $575 million will be made available within the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to invest in social and affordable housing, Anthony Albanese has said.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Jobs and Skills Summit at Parliament House in Canberra on Friday (2 September), Prime Minister and Labor leader Anthony Albanese committed to 36 immediate initiatives to improve skills and shore up employment.

One of the 36 initiatives was for more funding to support social housing.

The policy makes it possible for $575 million dollars in the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to invest in affordable housing by attracting financing from super funds and other sources of private capital.

In his speech, the Prime Minister said: “I’m very pleased we will be making up to $575 million available within the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to invest in social and affordable housing and to attract more investment from private capital – such as superannuation funds – into housing. 

“Because so many opportunities in life, depend on having a secure roof over your head.”

The Prime Minister added that the government had already had “constructive discussions”, including with the superannuation funds, about the proposals.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers added: “We’ve had some really encouraging conversations with superannuation, in particular, but there are other classes of investor as well which we think will become interested in investing in affordable housing around Australia. 

“If we can aggregate it up into big enough packages and if we can provide, via the income stream of this fund, a little bit of extra incentive, we think we can unleash some housing investment in this country. 

“When you go right around Australia and they talk about their labour and skill shortages, the next thing they say is that we need to have places for people to live. I had forums and workshops in Rockhampton with Senator Chisholm not that long ago, where that was the primary issue raised with us.

“So, it shouldn’t be beyond us to work together with superannuation and other forms of investor to use this income stream to leverage some investment in affordable housing so we can house those workers where we need to house them,” Mr Chalmers said.

The move has been welcomed by members of the social and affordable housing sector.

Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of Community Housing Industry Association, said social and affordable housing was critical infrastructure. 

“Our existing housing policies are a handbrake on economic growth because they fail to provide the rental housing needed for our workforce.

“This initiative is a great start at attracting super funds into social and affordable housing and we are committed to working with the Government to build upon it.”

Emma Greenhalgh, CEO of National Shelter said giving people on low and modest incomes greater housing choice was critically important. 

“Regional Australia is screaming out for workers, yet low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rents prevent people moving to the bush or the coast to work in industries such as aged care and health. This announcement is a good start in recognising the economic centrality of providing affordable homes.”

“Homeless and housing stress are massive economic impediments,” said Jenny Smith, chair of Homelessness Australia.

“It is refreshing and reassuring to see the Prime Minister both acknowledge and tackle this with a concrete measure to expand the supply of affordable homes.”

Kate Colvin, national spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, said the announcement was especially welcome in the context of other policy measures. 

“Expanding skilled migration, training and industry bargaining are important, but without homes to live in, we will continue to see rising rents push real wages backwards. This is important progress that the Government can build upon with a plan to rapidly deliver the affordable rentals needed across Australia,” she said.