Australia faces a number of significant housing issues, including an unacceptable level of homelessness, high levels of housing stress amongst low income householdsand especially renters, and declining affordability of home purchase in major cities.
These various issues are closely interlinked and require coordinated intervention on a number of levels. Current government efforts are fragmented, split between various agencies at Commonwealth, State and Local Government levels. This Submission to the Reform of the Federation White Paper Taskforce fragmentation is a greater issue than overlap or duplication, and requires greater cross-government collaboration to make a genuine impact.
In housing assistance, the greatest issue is the inadequacy of levels of assistance. This inadequacy shows itself on social housing in the form of long waiting lists for assistance, while in Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) it shows itself in the high proportion of households who are in housing stress despite receiving assistance.
This inadequacy in both forms of support is a significant contributor to levels of homelessness. None of the three alternatives canvassed in the Discussion Paper offers any clear way of alleviating this inadequacy. Option 2 is essentially a “status quo” option, while Options 1 and 3 offer significant rearrangements of responsibilities. Both the reform options appear to have significant problems and drawbacks without appearing to solve any of the significant problems facing housing assistance.
Housing programs present particular challenges both in relation to responses to Vertical Fiscal Imbalance (VFI) and approaches to Horizontal Fiscal Equalisation (HFE).