Developing a National Strategy for Housing and Homelessness: Uniting for Change

The Australian Government has released an Issues Paper on Housing and Homelessness in Australia.

Developing a National Strategy for Housing and Homelessness: Uniting for Change

A Series on Homelessness by Fletcher Street Cottage

Fletcher Street Cottage is Byron's homeless hub, providing a safe and welcoming space for individuals and families at risk of homelessness, and those already sleeping rough, to access connection and broader support.

In a world marked by diverse perspectives and challenges, the need for a unified approach to critical issues becomes more evident than ever. One such challenge that has garnered attention across Australia is the pressing matter of housing and homelessness. The intricate interplay of policies, programs, and responsibilities across various levels of government has underscored the necessity of a comprehensive and cohesive national strategy to address these issues.

Understanding the Landscape

In various submissions to the authorities, the common theme that emerges is the symbiotic relationship between homelessness and housing policies. It's a complex puzzle where the roles of federal, state, and local governments intersect, each holding varying degrees of authority. While states and territories primarily bear the responsibility for homelessness and housing, the Australian Government wields authority over broader issues like welfare. This intricate balance raises the need for a united national strategy that harmonises efforts and bridges the gaps.

Varied Perspectives on Strategy

Proposals for a national strategy span a wide spectrum, reflecting the multifaceted nature of the issue. Advocates from diverse sectors emphasised the role of Australian Government leadership as the cornerstone of change. The call for a holistic strategy resonated through proposals, some focusing primarily on addressing homelessness, while others extended their scope to broader concerns like housing affordability, taxation, and welfare programs.

The Call for National Strategy

Homelessness Australia, a key voice in this discourse, underlined the significance of a national strategy. Their representatives argued that only such a strategy could provide a panoramic view of Commonwealth government services and policies, enabling the identification of factors contributing to homelessness and allowing necessary changes. The national perspective, they highlighted, would facilitate collaboration between state, federal, and local agencies in a concerted effort to prevent and tackle homelessness.

Unveiling Past Successes

Drawing from history, advocates pointed to past triumphs that emerged from national strategies. The example of the 2008 White Paper on homelessness, "The Road Home," stood as a testament to the power of a united strategy. Under this national umbrella, substantial increases in social housing stock were witnessed, demonstrating that coordinated efforts can yield tangible results.

A Path Forward

As stakeholders sought a path forward, the recurring theme was the need for Australian Government leadership. The crux of many proposals was a comprehensive 10-20 year housing strategy, encompassing a specific plan to combat homelessness. The call extended beyond lip service, as experts recommended substantial financial support for social housing, along with a comprehensive review of existing structures such as Commonwealth Rent Assistance.

Collaboration and Local Empowerment

While the clarion call for a national strategy reverberated, the need for collaboration and partnership remained a constant refrain. Advocates stressed that a national strategy wouldn't negate local initiatives; instead, it would provide a framework for accountability and collective action. By embracing a cooperative approach, state and local governments could address unique challenges while staying aligned with overarching goals.

Local Government: An Integral Piece

In the dialogue surrounding national strategies, the importance of local government's involvement shone through. Local governments, often on the frontlines of addressing homelessness and housing challenges, are repositories of innovation and localised insights. Strengthening the dialogue between federal, state, and local tiers of government would not only foster a more comprehensive understanding of challenges but also pave the way for innovative solutions.

The Imperative of a National Housing Strategy

As the discussion culminates, the critical role of a national housing strategy emerges as an imperative. A cohesive, all-encompassing strategy has the potential to address the overarching challenges of homelessness and housing affordability. The need for such a strategy, backed by evidence, historical successes, and a collective sense of responsibility, stands as a unifying force in the journey to create a more equitable, accessible, and secure housing landscape for all Australians. With the right strategy in place, the nation can collectively rise to the challenge, ensuring that no one is left behind in the quest for safe and stable housing.

Image from Department of Social Services.

Developing the National Housing and Homelessness Plan

To help more Australians access safe and affordable housing, the Australian Government is developing a National Housing and Homelessness Plan (the Plan) in collaboration with state and territory governments. The Plan will be a 10-year strategy. It will set out a shared vision to inform future housing and homelessness policy in Australia. The Plan will set out the key short, medium and longer term reforms needed to address housing challenges.

The Plan is a key part of the Government’s ambitious reform agenda which also includes:

  • a 15% increase to the maximum rates of Commonwealth Rent Assistance to assist low-income renters
  • the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, the single biggest investment in social and affordable housing by a Federal Government in more than a decade, which will support the delivery of 30,000 social and affordable homes in its first 5 years
  • a National Housing Accord (Accord), setting out a shared ambition to build one million new, well-located homes over 5 years from 2024
  • an additional $350 million over 5 years from 2024-25 to support funding of 10,000 affordable homes under the Accord
  • providing tax incentives to support build-to-rent developments to reduce barriers to new supply in the private rental market
  • increasing the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s (NHFIC) liability cap by an additional $2 billion. This will allow NHFIC to provide more loans to community housing providers for social and affordable housing, supporting around an additional 7,000 dwellings
  • widening the remit of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, making up to $575 million available to invest immediately in social and affordable rental homes
  • expanding eligibility for the Home Guarantee Scheme to help more people buy a home sooner
  • offering states and territories an additional $67.5 million to address homelessness as part of a one year extension to the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement
  • a $2 billion Social Housing Accelerator payment to State and Territory Governments, which will create thousands of homes for Australians on social housing waiting lists.

The Australian Government has released an Issues Paper on Housing and Homelessness in Australia. The Issues Paper provides a brief overview of some of the known issues in different parts of the housing and homelessness systems and poses a series of discussion questions. You are invited to share your ideas and experiences by either responding to guided, short-form questions or lodging a written submission.

When making a submission or completing the short-form questions, we suggest you refer to the Issues Paper. The Issues Paper contains questions for consideration against each of the focus areas that you might like to think about when making your submission. A summary paper is also available.

Responses to the Issues Paper close at 11.59PM AEST Friday, 22 September 2023.


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