Submission to the 2014 Inquiry into Affordable Housing  

On 12 December 2013 a reference was moved to the Senate Economics Committee for an Inquiry into Affordable Housing. The St Vincent de Paul Society consulted nationally, and welcomed the opportunity to make a submission in March, 2014.

Unless we address housing affordability in Australia we will never succeed in eliminating poverty and homelessness. The Society is heavily involved in providing housing to thousands of Australians, as well as a range of other services that help people avoid homelessness (for example paying for food or bills, providing mental health support, and distributing white goods, clothes, and furnishings).

Housing is a human right, and one we believe that all levels of government have a duty to try to fulfil for those living in Australia. Many of the programs already in existence are doing great work, helping significant numbers of people as well as save huge amounts of money in the mid-to-long term. However, these programs need their funding extended, and in many cases increased. To increase efficiency, reporting and accountability are important, but are only truly effective when implemented after consultation. The relationship between housing and other vulnerabilities – such as mental health, gender, race, and criminal justice engagement – is highly complex, and needs to be carefully explored.

Results of the Inquiry

The Senate Economics Reference Committee released its Report into affordable housing on 8 May, 2015. The St Vincent de Paul Society agrees with key points made in the Report including that ‘a significant number of Australians are not enjoying the security and comfort of affordable and appropriate housing’.

The Report recommends that Treasury review negative gearing and Capital Gains Tax, and consider limiting first home buyers’ grants. The Society welcomed the Report’s recommendation to increase the supply of public housing and increased funding to ensure women and children escaping domestic violence are housed in secure and appropriate housing

The Society also welcomed the Report’s suggested review of Commonwealth Rent Assistance, its commitment to halving homelessness by 2025 and to re-invigorating the National Rental Affordability Scheme, National Affordable Housing Agreement and National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

The government’s dissenting report did not disagree with the facts, but argued that the issue of housing affordability should all be dealt with through the Federation White Paper process, and White Paper on Tax Reform. At the time of writing the Opposition is formulating its own housing policy to take to the next election and to which the Society has already contributed a submission.