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A Home For All: The Greens Plan for 500,000 New Public & Community Homes

Media Release
Mehreen Faruqi 21 Feb 2019

The Australian Greens have a plan to more than double the amount of social housing across Australia by building 500,000 new ecologically sustainable and fully accessible homes, with a net addition of 33,000 dwellings each year. The homes would be funded by scrapping negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions, as well as redirecting part of the banking levy on major banks.

Housing is in crisis in Australia. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute estimates there is a shortfall of over 500,000 affordable homes across the country. According to the ‘Everybody’s Home Campaign’, Sydney alone has a shortfall of 80,000 social housing homes. This gap will grow to 141,000 by 2036. Nationally, an estimated 189,000 families are on social housing waiting lists. Each night, 1 in 200 Australians are homeless.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens Senator for New South Wales and Housing Spokesperson, has said this is a long overdue and revolutionary investment in housing that will reverse the tide of shrinking public and community homes and provide a massive boost to our national affordable housing stock. This investment will more than double the current social housing stock, which is currently estimated at 435,700.

The Greens will:

Invest in 500,000 new public and community homes through a Federal Housing Trust. This additional investment will encourage states and territories to expand access to their social housing schemes so more people can have a secure home.

We’ll provide a guaranteed $500 million each year, indexed to CPI, to crisis services and transitional housing to ensure nobody is without a bed and a roof over their head – even for just one night. We will  specifically allocate funding for women and LGBTQI+ people experiencing homelessness.

Our plan is funded by winding back unfair tax breaks like negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions that advantage an investor looking to buy their fifth property over a home buyer looking for their first.

Quotes

Australian Greens Education Spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, said:

“Housing in Australia is monumentally messed up.  Social housing has not kept up with need, despite the rise in homelessness and  numbers of people in housing stress. Almost 200,000 people around the country are on social housing wait lists.

“With so many people in need of affordable housing we need sweeping changes to the way we think about social and community housing.

“For too long, governments have been neglecting and selling off public housing. They’ve lazily sat by, watching our stock of public housing stagnate. We have to play catch up fast.

“The primary goal of a housing system should be to supply long term secure homes to people, not unbridled profits for investors.

“Just like Medicare and our public school system, everyone should have access to social housing if they need it. By building more and improved public and community homes, we can guarantee an affordable, good quality home to people for life.

“The Federal Government must show leadership in tackling the housing crisis by making an unprecedented investment in social and community housing. Half a million new houses will make a huge difference to families needing homes.

“All homes built through the Federal Housing Trust will be environmentally sustainable. The Trust will incorporate principles of climate conscious architecture, to build sustainable and energy efficient homes with a minimal carbon footprint.

“This is a huge opportunity to ensure that new public housing is fully accessible, ensuring homes are designed to meet the needs of residents with a variety of mobility needs.

“Everyone has the right to a safe, secure and permanent home. We know the number of people seeking assistance for homelessness is growing every year. The situation is getting worse. We need urgent intervention, coupled with significant financial resources and reform of the housing system, or more and more people will be without a home.

“The Greens will make sure everyone has the dignity of a secure and affordable home. Housing is a human right – we’ll make sure there is a home for all.

“Nobody should be without a home. The Greens plan will make sure there are enough affordable homes for everyone to have a decent and safe place to live.

“Even with our big investment in expanding social housing, there will still be a need for crisis services as an important safety net. These services must be available and accessible to everyone who needs them. We will make sure nobody is without a bed and a roof over their head, even for one night.

Budget Details (Costed by Parliamentary Budget Office)

Initiative Summary (Expenditure)

4 Year Estimate (m)

10 Year Estimate (m)

Federal Housing Trust

1,931

4,005

Capital Grants (to complement the Trust)

4,500

7,000

Funding for Crisis Services and Transitional Funding

1,534

5,579

Details

Federal Housing Trust

A Federal Housing Trust (the Trust) will be established as a bond aggregator to offer secured loans to public housing authorities in all states and territories and community housing providers (CHPs). It will issue Commonwealth Government guaranteed bonds to fund the loans. The Trust will be in a position to issue loans worth 6.67 billion in 2019-20 rising to 8.49 billion in 2028-2029. The Trust will finance the construction of 500,000 affordable homes over 15 years, a net addition of 33,000 dwellings to Australia’s social housing stock each year. The Trust will ensure these homes are:

  • Affordable: rents indexed and based on household income;
  • Secure: long-term leases;
  • Accessible: mobility and accessibility needs will be met with best-practice design; and
  • Sustainable: climate conscious, environmentally sustainable and energy efficient construction and design.

The loans will be complemented by capital grants funding. Research shows combining capital grants with loans is one of the most cost effective ways for the Commonwealth to boost Australia’s social housing stock.

Funding Crisis Housing Services

In 2018, around 300,000 people sought assistance for homelessness. Lack of availability meant that 236 people seeking services had to be turned away every day.

The Greens will set aside $500m per year, indexed to CPI, to fund transitional housing and crisis services and guarantee this funding for ten years to give service providers certainty, with a specific allocation for women and LGBTQI+ people experiencing homelessness.

How we will pay for it

The Capital Gains Tax (CGT) discount of 50% has encouraged wealthy investors to gamble on future price rises. It has done very little to encourage the building of high-quality and affordable homes. It’s also an inequitable tax break. The latest available data shows that 80% of CGT discount benefits, amounting to about $7.6 billion per year, go to the top 10% of income earners.

Allowing property investors to negatively gear their investment has also encouraged speculation in housing. The Grattan Institute reports that the combination of negative gearing and the CGT discount “distorts investment decisions, makes housing markets more volatile and reduces home ownership”. The Coalition government claims average workers benefit from these tax breaks, but in reality they receive very little of the benefit. The Australia Institute has found that the top 20% of income earners get almost 50% of negative gearing benefits.

The Greens will:

  • Wind back the CGT discount by 10% per year over five years;
  • Phase out negative gearing for investors with two or more investment properties over five years. Investors with a single property will be exempt;
  • Prohibit negative gearing on all future investment purchases;
  • Redirect part of the banking levy.  

Winding back the CGT discount and phasing out negative gearing is expected to raise $5.18 billion over four years and $54.5 billion over ten.

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