UDIA national president Julie Katz

11 November 2013 — [UPDATED 12 November 2013] The Federal Government’s decision to abolish the National Housing Supply Council has been widely condemned.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Planning Institute of Australia and The Greens have all come out in opposition of the move, saying it removes a vital source of independent information.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia – the peak body representing the urban development industry – said the move was “disappointing”.

“The NHSC provides essential data and research to government and industry on housing supply, demand and affordability,” said UDIA national president Julie Katz.

“It provides information that is absolutely crucial to informing the Government’s approach to addressing Australia’s ongoing housing supply crisis.

“The NHSC’s annual State of Supply report was the first publication to comprehensively outline and quantify the extent of Australia’s housing supply problem, and remains one of the best bodies of research available for informing housing supply and affordability policy.”

The Planning Institute of Australia said the move would deny the nation a critical source of data supporting smart planning.

Chief executive Kirsty Kelly said while in the short-term the move could reduce the cost of government business, axing the NHSC could have costly ramifications for housing affordability and the federal budget.

“This decision, coming on World Town Planning Day of all days, regrettably puts short-term budgetary expediency ahead of smart, long-term planning,” Ms Kelly said.

“Without this data we run the risk of ad hoc housing development, with enormous potential consequences from the misallocation of scarce public and private resources.”

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the axing could make Australia’s housing crisis worse.

“For many Australians today rents are at crisis point and home ownership well beyond their means – the Abbott Government’s plan to abolish the National Housing Supply Council will make the situation worse,” said Senator Ludlam.

“The National Housing Supply Council is the only body providing reliable information on Australia’s housing crisis. It is the only body that measures Australia’s housing supply gap, and it provides vital intelligence to governments and the housing sector.

“This isn’t a saving – it’s a disaster. Mr Abbott is swinging the axe at the Council not because he needs to find an extra $800,000 – but because he doesn’t want an organisation that rings the warning bell on the nation’s worsening housing crisis.”

The announcement to abolish the NHSC comes less than two months after the Government disbanded the Major Cities Unit, another crucial, independent source of information on urban development.

“The Government has previously recognised the damage to the community and the economy that the massive undersupply of affordable housing in Australia is doing, but the disbandment of the NHSC and MCU raises concerns about how the Government intends to address these problems,” said Ms Katz.

“The fact that the NHSC operates at arm’s length from the Government and is comprised of key industry and community stakeholders allows the organisation to provide independent, objective and highly credible advice.”

Meanwhile, the Urban Taskforce called on the Government to ensure comparative data was supplied so state government performance on housing supply could be measured.

“Australia has the highest priced housing in the world according to many reports and this is having a negative impact of the affordability of housing for younger families,” said Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson.

“One of the advantages of our federated system of government is that the states and territories can learn from each other in terms of performance but this needs comparative data from a federal level.

“The federal government needs to demonstrate that housing affordability is an important issue for all Australians.”