In his opening address at the 48th National Conference of the Australian Labor Party, opposition leader Bill Shorten revealed that if elected to government, Labor would commission the construction of 250,000 new affordable homes.
Mr Shorten has said that the homes would be designed for:
- Low-income, working families;
- “Key workers” like nurses, police, carers and teachers; and
- Australians at risk of loneliness and homelessness.
Further, the Labor opposition leader claimed that the 250,000 homes would be:
- Fully accessible with a universal design for all ages and for people with disability;
- More energy efficient; and
- Have a rental discount of 20 per cent
“Our plan will mean that a family paying the national rental average would save up to $92 a week, every week of the year,” Mr Shorten said.
“[We’ll] work with the states and territories, local councils and those mighty community housing providers to manage development and congestion. To make sure these homes are built where they’re needed most and to go to the people who need them most. Not foreign investors, nor international students.”
Mr Shorten also called on market support, urging the superannuation industry to “step up” and invest in affordable housing.
He continued: “[This] is a big idea. It will be the biggest national housing program since the Second World War.
“[We] can pay for this $6.6 billion investment in jobs and housing and productivity and the future of our cities, because we’ve made the big reform decisions.
“This is a boost for renters and for the liveability of our growing suburbs and our rural and regional towns.”
Mr Shorten also claimed that alongside Labor’s negative gearing policy, the affordable housing program would drive a boom in construction jobs and apprenticeships, which he said would have a ripple effect on the broader economy.
“Building more affordable housing is infrastructure policy. It is cities policy. It is jobs and productivity policy. And it is population policy,” he added.
Mr Shorten concluded: “When you provide an affordable home for hardworking people, you give them the level playing field and fair start they need.
“I know that when every Australian has the chance to fulfil their potential, the whole nation benefits. And the opportunity to have a roof over your head will turbocharge the potential of the Australian people even more.”
Reaction to Labor’s policy announcement
Following Mr Shorten’s announcement, Australian Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said that Labor’s affordable housing plan doesn’t go far enough.
“Housing in Australia is monumentally messed up. With so many people in need of affordable housing, we need radical solutions.
“Labor’s announcement will incentivise private investors for 10 years, but what happens when the subsidy runs out?”
The Greens senator called for “massive investment” in public and community housing to build homes that people can afford to live in for the long term.
“We need rent-controlled social housing where people won’t suddenly face homelessness because a subsidy has run out. The Greens have a plan to build 500,000 new rent-controlled public and community homes,” she continued.
“With Labor’s plan, we will find ourselves with the same problem we have with National Rental Affordability Scheme where people are left facing homelessness when the scheme ends.
“Guaranteeing a home and a roof over people’s head should not rely on ongoing subsidies to private investors.”
Also commenting on Mr Shorten’s announcement, Community Sector Banking CEO Andrew Cairns said that the Labor opposition leader understated concerns over rental affordability but welcomed the plan.
“Bill Shorten is right to say that rental affordability is a national challenge. However, it is more of a national crisis. The majority of very low-income households in Australia are under rental stress, meaning they are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent,” he said.
“Providing more affordable homes for people on low and moderate incomes is a welcome step in the right direction. However, 20,000 new units and houses over the next four years would only go some way to addressing the huge shortfall.
Further, National Everybody’s Home campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin also welcomed the announcement and urged other parties to follow suit.
“Analysis by the University of NSW shows that across the country, 811,000 Australian households are in rental stress, in every state and territory and in every electorate,” she said.
“The narrow focus on real estate prices and home buyers means they’ve been totally ignored in the housing debate until now. “
Ms Colvin concluded: “This election, we need all parties to support a national housing strategy that includes a plan to deliver social and affordable rental homes Australians need.
“We ask Labor to step up to the plate this and they’ve totally knocked it out of the park.
"We’re looking forward to all parties doing the same over the next few months,” Ms Colvin said.