Federal, state and territory ministers meet to tackle Australia’s growing housing affordability crisis

by Royce Kurmelovs
Albanese government aims to provide $10bn in funding to build 30,000 social and affordable properties in five years

Australia’s state, territory and federal housing ministers have met for the first time in half a decade in an effort to develop a national response to the housing affordability crisis.

Housing and homelessness minister, Julie Collins, convened the meeting in Melbourne on Friday as part of the Albanese government’s push to establish a national housing and homelessness plan.

Collins said the ministers discussed the “priorities, challenges and housing strategies in their jurisdictions” and advised how federal policy could “boost and leverage their recent investments” in social and affordable housing.

“I also reaffirmed our commitment to engage with states and territories, local government as well as key stakeholders, to help further design and implement our housing agenda,” Collins said.

“Through national leadership, our government will maintain its strong focus on stable and affordable housing for all.”

Items on the federal agenda included support for first homebuyers, particularly in regional areas, and a $10bn fund to build 30,000 social and affordable properties in five years.

It will also seek to establish a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.

South Australia’s minister for housing and urban development, Nick Champion, welcomed the renewed federal attention on housing affordability, saying the previous Coalition government “did not care about these issues at all.”

“It’s the first meeting in five years,” Champion said. “Nationwide there are tight rental markets in particular and affordable rental is what’s being squeezed.”

“There’s a challenge in affordable rental for what I would call working-class people and some might call essential workers. We need national leadership, that much is obvious.”

South Australia in particular currently has 16,000 people on the waiting list for social housing, and 3600 people classed as priority one. This is in addition to a lack of available housing in regional communities which is making it difficult for businesses to find workers.

Asked whether the 30,000 new dwellings over five years promised by the federal government would be enough, Champion said the commitment was “lightyears” ahead of the previous Coalition government.

“You have state governments moving quickly, looking at important local projects and acting on those and the commonwealth can accelerate those by bringing their financial resources and firepower only a commonwealth government has to the fore,” he said.

Champion said there was room for cooperation between states on shared challenges such as the need to address housing in remote Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

But he also said fixing the issue was a complex task that was not quickly fixed as there were limits to “what you can reasonably bring online”.

“At the moment the building industry has got its own challenges from construction costs which is mainly driven by supply side inflation that we haven’t seen in 30 years so that’s having an effect as well,” he said.

“[There’s] a complex interaction between land, building capacity, community housing capacity – a whole range of things.”

“Apartments, houses, private development – all of that takes time to come on to the market. This is not an easy issue to address in the short term.”