Albanese housing plan facing defeat

Crossbenchers say the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund doesn’t go far enough

Albanese housing plan facing defeat

The Albanese government’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) may be facing defeat in the Senate after a crossbench revolt.

The Greens, the Jacqui Lambie Network and David Pocock are threatening to block the plan amid warnings from experts and superannuation funds that the government isn’t doing enough to prevent a rental and housing crisis, The Australian reported.

The crossbenchers are threatening to block the plan unless Labor raises its social housing targets and puts billions more into affordable housing initiatives, according to The Australian.

The opposition comes as Industry Super Australia, which represents the country’s largest industry funds, warned that the Albanese government’s plan to build 30,000 new affordable homes in five years would fail without an additional $10 billion in capital.

Housing Minister Julie Collins is expected to negotiate amendments with the crossbenchers this week, The Australian reported. The government has eight sitting days this fortnight to push through four key pieces of HAFF legislation for its housing plan, the safeguard mechanism, the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund and the voice referendum mechanism, the publication said.

“We need to see more ambition”

“We need to see more ambition from the government, otherwise this problem is going to continue to worsen,” Pocock told The Australian. “Spending $500 million a year, even if the returns from the HAFF are good, over five years to tackle what everyone agrees is a huge and growing housing crisis simply won’t cut it.”

Collins told the publication that she was having constructive dialogue with the crossbenchers, but warned that “standing in the way of this legislation” would put at risk much-needed new homes.

“The $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund is the single biggest investment from the federal government in social and affordable housing in more than a decade,” she said.

The Albanese government needs the Greens’ 11 senators and two crossbenchers to push the legislation through, The Australian reported.

Max Chandler-Mather, spokesman for the Greens, said “a lot of people” were angry that Labor could see its way to spending $386 billion on nuclear attack submarines “but can’t find a single extra cent to spend directly on public and affordable housing.”

Greens demand more

The Greens launched a campaign over the weekend warning that the shortage of social and affordable housing would hit 715,000 homes by 2027, far outstripping the government’s promise to build 30,000 new homes.

Chandler-Mather warned that Labor could lose seats in the next election unless it works with the Greens to take action on the issue, including “direct investment in public and affordable housing, and national rent caps.”

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“We spoke to lifelong Labor voters willing to sign our petition calling on Labor to accept the Greens’ demand to invest $5 billion in public and affordable housing,” he said. “We spoke to single mums already contemplating homelessness because they couldn’t afford any more rent increases. We spoke to thousands of people all insisting that the Greens refuse to pass Labors’ bill until they agree to the Greens’ demands. The feedback from over 80% of the conversations we had across the country was crystal-clear: the Greens should not support Labor’s plan that does nothing for renters, and will make the crisis worse.”

A perfect storm

Property  market experts have warned of a “perfect storm” in the market driven by the rental affordability crisis and a projected drop in new construction, The Australian reported.

University of NSW housing research and urban planning expert Hal Pawson didn’t see HAFF as sufficient to address the issue on its own. He told the publication that the market was in trouble – especially the private rental market, where house rents had skyrocketed by 23% since early 2020.

“In a number of ways the problems currently coming out in the system aren’t a brand-new thing; we all know housing affordability has been gradually getting worse for some period,” Pawson told The Australian. “The other major symptom of a more deeply embedded problem in the housing system is the adequacy of the social housing sector to absorb homeless people and people in need … that adequacy has been shrinking for decades. I do think the [HAFF] is only a start.”

Pawson said there were other housing issues, including a sharp drop in new-home construction and the mortgage cliff that will soon be faced by borrowers coming off ultra-low fixed rates.

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