A missed opportunity to invest in the security of low-income Australians
Unfortunately the recently announced Federal Budget 2022-23 gave no real comfort to the millions of low-income people currently battling unaffordable rents and insecure tenancies. With no commitment to beef up the investment in social and affordable housing, Specialist Homelessness Services continue to face the unenviable task of responding to an increasing demand for their services with limited longer-term housing options to offer people.
Renting is not just a phase people go through. More of us are renting and many will rent their whole lives. For many low-income households their renting experience is one of stress – financial, physical and emotional. The tax offsets and one-off payments promised in the budget to assist households with cost-of-living expenses will not go far in eliminating this. Journalist Jess Irvine described the failure to increase Commonwealth Rental Assistance as a ‘ticking time bomb’. The budget failed to address this and broader affordability issues, instead focusing more on schemes to support home ownership.
- Home Guarantee Scheme expanded – 35,000 (up from 10,000) guaranteed places and also including regional areas. The scheme would allow eligible first home buyers with deposits as low as 5 per cent to purchase or build a new home, and 5000 guarantees to support single parents to buy a home with deposits as low as 2 per cent. Caps apply to new or existing homes worth up to $700,000 in cities and $500,000 in regional areas.
- First Home Super Saver Scheme changes confirmed – the total amount an individual can access from their superannuation savings for the purchase of their first home increased from $30,000 to $50,000
The raising of the NHFIC liability cap by $2billion to $5.5billion will assist community housing providers deliver some more social and affordable housing. But note that this is not a grant provided directly to community housing providers.
We are not against well-designed and targeted schemes to support some cohorts of people into home ownership but we see them as a second or third best policy options. In an environment of still-rising house prices, forecast interest rate increases and the propensity of these types of schemes to add inflationary pressure into the housing market we hold little hope of any widespread improvement in housing affordability.
As Emma Greenhalgh, CEO of National Shelter noted, ‘We are concerned that the only focus in this budget is on measures that provide fuel to an already inflated market. We need a suite of responses to address this housing emergency, not just one response. The government has spent more in the past 12 months supporting people to renovate housing than on providing funding for people who urgently need housing’.
For more information please refer to the National Shelter 2022/23 Budget analysis and very comprehensive analysis of Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic housing policy response by AHURI.
We will continue to call for a national housing strategy with substantially more investment in social and affordable housing and a review of the rate of Commonwealth Rental Assistance. The Commonwealth Productivity Commission is currently conducting its scheduled mandated review of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA). This is a critical review. Please read our submission calling for a more robust and better funded housing and homelessness system. Note also the excellent submission made by the NSW Government describing a stretched state system and calling for significantly more Commonwealth funding and policy leadership.