The Albanese government is a step closer to passing its $10bn housing future fund – but the Greens are still holding out their support.
As state and territory housing ministers sign a joint letter calling for the Senate to pass the legislation, the government shored up support from Tasmanian senators Jacqui Lambie and Tammy Tyrrell.
In exchange for their support, the government will commit to building at least 1200 social and affordable houses in each state and territory over the first five years of the fund.
The future fund will leverage $10bn, with the aim to invest $500m in social and affordable housing each year, and build 30,000 houses in that period.
Larger states like NSW and Victoria will get their “fair share”, with the government assuring that 1200 figure was a floor – not a ceiling.
But the Greens are adamant the proposal puts a “gamble on the stock market” and doesn’t guarantee a return. They say the future fund as it stands doesn’t guarantee any houses being built in a given year. The party would rather the government directly invest money in public housing.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said if the future fund had existed last year, not one house would have been built.
Housing Minister Julie Collins said that wasn’t true but couldn’t put a figure on how many houses would have been built last year.
The Greens want greater guarantee on returns than the government is offering. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
“We’ve been very clear that the average disbursements from the other funds, they’ve all made reliable annual disbursements, the average return has been 9 per cent per annum over the past decade,” she told ABC Radio.
“So having a lower return in one year is usually balanced by greater returns in other years.
“What we’re talking about here is over five years we expect 30,000 homes, social and affordable rental homes, for Australians from the fund.”
Ms Collins said the government was doing more than just the housing fund to build more houses.
Housing Minister Julie Collins said the fund would balance itself out if there was a lower return in one year. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Independent ACT senator David Pocock said he shared the Greens’ concern about a lack of guaranteed spending.
“Clearly, I think they’re going to have to guarantee that amount if they are going along the lines of availability payments, where they’re giving community housing providers X amount per year to maintain a social affordable home, they’ve got to be able to guarantee those payments,” he told ABC Radio.
“So there’s sort of an implicit acknowledgment and acknowledgment that it has to be a floor, but just so frustrating to see this become political rather than about policy.”
Senator David Pocock won’t block the fund but wants greater assurances. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
He said he wouldn’t block the housing fund from passing through the Senate – as the Greens are threatening to do – but he is pleading with the government to listen to the expert advice.
“I do expect the government to take on-board advice from experts around indexing a fund or allowing it to disperse more when it returns more, and that isn’t the case in this instance,” he said.
Ms Collins said Liberal and Greens senators needed to “listen to community concern, and the experts, and pass the Bill”.
“Every single day the Bill is delayed is delaying homes on the ground,” she said.
Asked about whether the government would take up the Greens’ call for a national rental freeze, Ms Collins said there was “no silver bullet, there’s no easy solution”.
What we’re doing is working as quickly as we can with states and territories to turn around what are very serious housing challenges in Australia,” she said.