Plea For Affordable Housing To Be Part Of Next Election Campaign

"You go to any BBQ or pub, this is what people are talking about and looking to government for action on."

A coalition of charities and crisis accommodation organisations is hoping to catapult home affordability and social housing squarely into the frame for the next federal election campaign, calling on major parties to commit to policies to fix Australia's "broken" housing system.

The campaign, titled Everybody's Home, brings together the likes of the Salvation Army, Homelessness Australia, Anglicare, Uniting and a bevy of social housing bodies. Members have united to push for governments at all levels to address issues related to housing, from mortgage and rental affordability, to crisis shelter availability, homelessness, and state-funded public housing stock.

Last week, a delegation of members travelled to federal parliament in Canberra to lobby politicians directly, meeting with a clutch of interested Coalition, Labor and Greens members.

"Coming out of the federal budget, we were very disappointed not to see any additional initiatives, reforms or anything to address housing affordability or the homelessness crisis in Australia," Kate Colvin, of the Victoria-based Council to Homeless Persons, told ten daily.

"After last year's budget, we anticipated there would be something to build on that. But apart from tax reform, it wasn't even referred to in [Labor leader Bill Shorten's] budget reply speech."

The 2017 federal budget contained minor reforms to negative gearing and capital gains tax as it relates to housing,  a concession from the Coalition government that there was some need to be addressed in that area, and a scheme allowing first homebuyers to salary sacrifice into their superannuation accounts to build up a home deposit.

However, the only notable housing-related policy in the 2018 budget was the establishment of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, a bond aggregation model to help community housing providers raise finance to build new accommodation stock.

Treasurer Scott Morrison only mentioned the word "housing" once in his budget speech, in reference to a "$550 million commitment to address remote housing needs in the Northern Territory".

The 2016 census recorded 116,000 people experiencing, a five percent increase from the 2011 census. More than 51,000 of these people were living in "severely overcrowded" accommodation, with experts saying much of this figure was due to the unaffordability of appropriate housing.

Around 12 percent of households spent between one-third and half of their gross household income on housing and six percent spent more than half on housing, both increases over previous years.

Elsewhere, international reports have consistently ranked Sydney as the second most expensive housing market in the world, with Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth also ranking highly on the global indexes.

Other data shows 1.5 million households pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, the threshold for what is considered 'housing stress', with the majority of these being renters.

Colvin said the Everybody's Home campaign had been established to raise the profile of issues relating to housing and homelessness, citing a mismatch between how high the issues rate in political discourse and how much they are discussed in everyday society.

Everybody's Home is calling for more action on homelessness and housing

The group is asking the government to take further action on negative gearing, capital gains tax concessions, to build more social and affordable housing, fund subsidies to encourage private rental operators to provide affordable options, and commit more investment to the bond aggregator model to stimulate the private construction of social and affordable housing.

"Housing affordability is so consistently rating in the top few issues for voters. There seems to be a disconnect between the issues ordinary Australians are facing and concerned about, and what MPs are focusing on," she said.

"You go to any BBQ or pub, this is what people are talking about and looking to government for action on."

A housing affordability report from Anglicare, released in April, found someone surviving solely on Newstart or Youth Allowance payments has been entirely priced out of the Australian rental market, able to reasonably afford only three out of 66,000 properties for rent in March -- 0.00004 percent.

A Salvation Army report this month warned of "devastating hardship" faced by many on welfare payments, saying many were left with just $17 a day after paying their accommodation costs.

“I don’t know how much more critical it can get when you’re dealing with rates of zero,” Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria, told ten daily last month.

“Federal governments from both sides have been asleep at the wheel on this one for too long. [Housing affordability] is now our most critical social infrastructure crisis.”