Housing Futures Fund may not mean new homes for regions

May 26, 2023

Two story contemporary house

State Housing Minister Rose Jackson has dodged a firm answer about whether Wagga will receive new social and affordable housing.

The Housing Australia Futures Fund (HAFF) is a federal government policy, that would see profits of a $10 billion investment used for social and affordable housing.

The Labor party say it will create 30,000 new homes in the first five years. HAFF is currently deadlocked in the senate, with The Greens, arguing it is too risky to gamble the future of social housing on the stock market, and opposition leader Peter Dutton calling it an “accounting trick”.

Federal and state governments have reached an accord on a minimum allocation for each state, there has been little discussion about whether rural, regional and remote communities will get their fair share.

Although it is a federal policy, responsibility for its distribution will fall to state housing ministers.

In response to questions about whether Wagga, or regional communities would get a boost to their social and affordable housing stock, Minister Jackson acknowledged a need, but declined to say whether she would allocate funding to Wagga.

“Delivering more housing in regional and rural areas such as Wagga Wagga is crucial and Commonwealth funds will help get them started,” she said.

“The final allocation of funding cannot be known until after the relevant Commonwealth bills are passed and the associated funding arrangements are released.

“Regional areas will be included in the consideration for funding allocation.”

In January 2023, the line for public housing in Wagga was 658; likely an underestimate according to a statement made by Ms Jackson at the time. Wait times range from two – 10 years.

Expected wait times for public housing in Wagga from June 2022.

In Wagga, it is not only the absolute quantity, but types of housing available that will pose challenges into the future.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that while the average number of people living in a given home has declined, the majority of Wagga’s existing housing stock is larger family homes.

This, coupled with the rising cost of living create a mismatch between supply and demand in the housing market, where there are far more people looking for one and two bedroom properties than exist on the market.

Director for the Centre for Equitable Housing at Per Capita, Matt Lloyd-Cape said this issue could be resolved by governments, councils and developers taking bolder approaches to planning.

“Replacing existing single story family homes with multi story units would be an appropriate solution, allowing the state to replace unsuitable housing stock with many more smaller units on the same block of land,” he said.

“This would reduce the costs associated with land purchasing which is the biggest single cost of construction.”

“Government have in the past built up to 20 per cent of all new dwellings, compared to around 1 per cent today … In the 1990s, 25 per cent of renters lived in social housing. Now that number is around 9 per cent.”

Mr Lloyd-Cape said that while HAFF will no resolve the supply shortage by itself, it may be the start of a turning tide for housing prices.

“What is important is that federal and state governments start treating our housing infrastructure as we do our other critical infrastructure like water and electricity,” he said.

After 30 years of neglect of housing, the HAFF by itself will not solve the chronic shortage, but is hopefully a step toward turning the decline in social and affordable housing stock around.”

Originally published May 26, by Dan Holmes, Daily Advertiser