ELECTION 2022: This election gives us a golden opportunity to begin creating a bipartisan, consistent, long-term strategy that addresses our housing crisis.
Restoring housing as a basic human right and service, rather than a traded commodity, is much discussed by those seeking to address the critical shortfall of social and affordable housing in Australia.
Labor’s recent election pledge to introduce a Commonwealth-backed shared equity scheme is one small and potentially valuable piece in what is needed – a bipartisan National Housing Plan.
Rather than rejecting commitments made by one another, all parties and independents need to take this opportunity to engage in a conversation to address our continuing housing crisis. As a nation, we are steadily moving further and further from bipartisan policy development, which can serve the people and the country rather than niche political interests.
The states struggle under the weight of growing public housing waiting lists, rough sleeper counts and tragic domestic violence statistics that continue to increase, partly due to a lack of resources to provide adequate and additional viable housing options.
All three levels of government in Australia need to play a coordinated role in the housing system, so that individuals, families and households do not continue to suffer from the lack of a consistent long-term policy focus.
While housing-related policy statements from any party as an election pitch are welcome, they need to be framed in the context of a long-term national housing plan. Engagement across the housing supply chain, from housing and tenant advocates, financiers, builders, materials suppliers, community service providers, training providers, researchers, agencies at all three levels of government and others is imperative for good policy development. This needs to be done to help overcome on-going issues including materials and labour shortages, our boom-and-bust housing cycle and our declining manufacturing base.
In the past decade, economic policy regarding housing has also been distorted by the financialisaton of housing. Australian taxation policy reviews also fail to address negative gearing, which favours baby boomers and disenfranchises current younger generations. Such issues need to be tackled in the context of a national housing plan, as no political party will ever be successful at improving the system unless a strong narrative can be presented to the Australian community.
Along with this, Australians living in urban areas need to be better informed about the potentials for higher density liveable housing and co-housing models (so that land supply issues in areas of high demands do not result in prohibitive land costs).
Similarly, those moving to regional areas need to be supported with the economic and social infrastructure to ensure the ongoing viability of an increasingly decentralised population.
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A national housing plan, such as the one advocated by the Community Housing Industry Association, could establish a roadmap to embrace the complexity of our housing system, so that we don’t continue to stagger from one well intentioned though ultimately fraught reactive policy (e.g. which overheats the housing market causing materials and labour supply issues) to another (e.g. exposing home buyers to the risk of default due to changing interest rates).
None of this is easy, and sadly, if we started today, it would likely take a decade to restore stability in the housing system in order to address the fundamental human need for shelter.
Let’s take this opportunity to further push the conversation for a national housing plan with our politicians.