Access to stable, affordable housing - connected to public transport, schools, and good jobs - should be a non-negotiable government guarantee. People should know they have somewhere to sleep each night, and that they won’t get kicked out of their home at short notice, or have the rent put up without warning or justification.
In June 2016, there were 194,000 people languishing on the government waiting list for social housing, forced to compete for just 8,111 vacancies.29 On any given night, over 100,000 Australians go to sleep uncertain about their housing situation.30 Almost 18,000 children don’t have a place they call home.31 Across the country, home ownership is being made less affordable, leading to increased financial stress, especially among renters and low income households.32 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over six times less likely to own their own home than other Australians. And in some parts of Arnhem land, the average number of occupants living in a two bedroom house is 15.
Sleeping rough, rental stress, overcrowding, or just living in houses without basic amenities has disastrous consequences for people’s health, wellbeing and sense of safety. We need to transform our public housing programs, stop rent-gouging at the hands of wealthy landlords, and strengthen the rights of tenants.
A Massive increase in funding for affordable housing supply
Just 30 years ago, the Australian government was responsible for funding the construction of 12% of all new dwellings. Today, that number has fallen to just 2%.33 As a result, the proportion of social housing stock has been decreasing, despite already being extremely low, relative to other wealthy nations.
We need a Housing First approach, modelled on the success of places like Finland and Denmark. The Australian Government can and should reprioritise social housing, and focus construction of new housing in areas that are close to public transport, good schools and public amenities. This kind of nation building investment won’t just create new homes – it will generate thousands of well paying jobs. It will give people the confidence, and security they need to raise a family or get involved in their communities.
In addition, the government could also purchase private housing developments that are lying empty – because housing should be a right, not an investment.
Commonsense housing reform ideas:
- Replace stamp duty and property taxes with a broad land value tax on everything, including owner-occupier properties.
- End negative gearing, and lower the capital gains tax discount to 25%.
- Encourage long term tenancies that allow people to settle down.
- Establish and properly fund Community Land Trusts to give provide genuinely affordable housing, and give people a democratic say in their local communities.
- Abolish “no grounds” rental evictions.
- Cap rent increases for existing tenants at a single annual increase in line with inflation.
- Ban “rental bidding” to ensure fair access to rental properties at their listed price.
- Improve tenant entitlements, including allowing pets in all properties and permitting tenants to make modifications provided they don't decrease the value of the property.
29Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “Housing Assistance in Australia 2017”, Australian Government, 13 July 2017.
30Homelessness Australia, Fact Sheet, 2016
32John Daley & Brendan Coates, “Housing affordability: Re-imagining the Australian Dream”, Grattan Institute, Report no. 2018-04, March 2018
33Keith Wardrip, Laura Williams, and Suzanne Hague, "The Role of Affordable Housing in Creating Jobs and Stimulating Local Economic Development" Centre for Housing Policy, 2011