Budget heartless and shortsighted, says community housing group

Hands off Glebe Inc, a community public housing advocacy group, has condemned the Federal Budget as “heartless and shortsighted” for failing to fund an increase in social housing in the face of huge and growing unemployment and cuts to income support payments.

Treasurer Frydenberg committed to an extension of the First Home Loan Deposit scheme and 1 billion in concessional loans to community housing providers to build affordable housing. The Budget also includes a cut of $41.3 million from homelessness funding in July 2021.

However the government failed to make any direct investment in desperately needed social housing infrastructure and instead continued to shift responsibility to charitable organisations, a form of privatization.

“Subsidies to first home buyers mean the government spends far more on private housing than it spends on public housing.  These schemes are welfare for real estate agents and developers,” Dr Hannah Middleton from Hands off Glebe Inc said.

“This money would be far better redirected to public housing to build and maintain public housing stock. 

“There are over 50,000 households on the social housing waiting list in NSW alone,” Dr Middleton continued. “And the number will grow as the impact of the pandemic and recession grow.

“Before COVID-19 there were 116,000 homeless people in Australia, and more than 800,000 living in rent stress.

“And it has been estimated that homelessness in NSW will increase by as much as 16,000 people as a result of COVID-19.

“Construction job losses are also growing and the sector may lose up to 205,000 jobs by next March,” Dr Middleton continued.

“But spending big on social housing would provide a boost to the struggling industry, and support the growing number of Australians at risk of homelessness in the wake of the pandemic.

Building houses for low income earners is not a burden or an exercise in charity. It makes economic sense.  Investing in residents is not money wasted. In reality it contributes to progress, creating job and new infrastructure and cutting down on calls on other services. 

“Building public housing is an effective stimulus, and it’s faster to roll out than most other infrastructure projects. The National Housing Finance Investment Corporation found 9 jobs were created for every $1 million in social housing investment;

And polling showed that 60% of Australians believe investment in affordable housing should have been a Budget priority

spending big on social housing that will be key to providing a boost to the struggling industry, and supporting the growing number of Australians at risk of homelessness. “Building houses for low income earners is not a burden or an exercise in charity. It makes economic sense. It contributes to progress, creating jobs and new infrastructure and cutting down on calls on other services. 

“Instead of its heartless and shortsighted approach, the Government should have committed funds in the Budget to build 30,000 public and affordable housing units, at a cost of about $10 billion, creating about 18,000 construction related jobs a year and helping to pull Australia out of recession.”