The Greens have lashed Labor for their unwillingness to budge on housing reform and rental assistance, potentially derailing Anthony Albanese’s plan to get a key piece of legislation through parliament this week.
The Housing Australia Future Fund, a major election promise, requires the backing of the Greens and at least two senate crossbenchers.
Under the plan, the government would invest $10 billion into the Future Fund – with an estimated $500 million of annual returns to be spent on building 30,000 social and affordable houses in the first five years.
That would include 4000 properties for women and children facing family and domestic violence and older women at risk of homelessness.
The minor party and independent senator David Pocock are strongly critical of the package in its current form, saying $500 million a year would not build enough homes. The Greens also want greater carveouts for renters.
The Greens have accused the government of playing politics, questioning how in the same austerity budget Labor can justify spending up to $368 billion on a nuclear submarine deal, but not budge on a $500 million annual spend on key housing infrastructure.
Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather said the housing plan would “make the crisis worse, doesn’t guarantee a single cent on housing” and does “nothing for renters”.
The Greens say negotiations with Labor are ongoing but are not moving.
The minor party are adamant they won’t support the Bill through the Senate unless the government comes to the table with at least greater assistance for renters – making it unlikely to pass through the parliament in the last few sitting days before the May budget.
Greens Leader Adam Bandt and housing spokesperson Max Chandler-Mather won’t support the Housing Australia Future Fund unless more is done for renters. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Their threats come after four peak housing and homelessness bodies called for the senate to pass the legislation, saying vulnerable people “couldn’t wait” for the politicking to be done.
Kate Colvin, chief executive of Homelessness Australia, said the nation needed a “housing reset”, and acknowledged that while the package wasn’t perfect – it was a start.
“The package of laws before the Parliament will not be enough to fix the housing crisis alone, but they are critical to kickstarting a longer term response,” she said.
“We need the planning, co-ordination and financing in place to make sure this is the last housing crisis we face and for that reason, it’s important that the Housing Australia Future Fund, Housing Australia and other key bodies get going now.”
Housing Minister Julie Collins has pleaded for the Greens to be reasonable. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Housing Minister Julie Collins also called for the Greens and other crossbenchers to be reasonable.
“The $10 billion is the most significant investment by a federal government in social and affordable housing in more than a decade,” she told ABC Radio on Tuesday morning.
“It is very significant, and what I would say to the Greens and to other crossbenchers in the senate is that vulnerable people cannot afford for this to delay.
“If their response is ‘it’s our way or zero’, I mean, that is just unacceptable when you’ve got vulnerable people on the ground who need housing today.”
Her caucus colleague, Veterans Affairs Minister Matt Keogh has blasted the Greens, calling them “the problem”.
“By not supporting the Housing Australia Future Fund legislation YOU are holding back funding for housing for families escaping family and domestic violence and housing and supports for veterans experiencing and at risk of homelessness,” he said in a tweet directed at Mr Chandler-Mathers.
“YOU and the Greens Party are the problem.”
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