Federal Labor engage sector and National Housing Strategy

From the Director – David Cant (PowerHousing Australia Independent Director)

Alongside PowerHousing Chair Nicola Lemon, and Vice Chair Ken Marchingo, I was pleased to represent PowerHousing Australia (PHA) at the CHIA National AGM on Tuesday 20th November in Melbourne.

The highlight of the occasion was an address by The Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Leader of the Opposition.  Senator Doug Cameron Opposition Spokesperson on Housing and Homelessness was also present, and he stayed on to answer questions.  Doug also provided some feedback on the CHIA National Plan for Affordable Housing which was launched at the AGM.  Copies of both the speech and the CHIA Plan are available if required.

It was a very well attended event (over 200 people present by my calculation and standing room only).  Whilst the speeches turned out to lack any hard numbers (an “announcement about an announcement” if you will), the VIBE in the room was great and that shared confidence amongst those present of good things to come was a fitting testament to the great work of Peta Winzar the retiring CEO of CHIA.

On behalf of PHA I expressed our collective appreciation for the great work that Peta has done and especially the collaborative style she adopted.

Some highlights from Bill Shorten’s speech in my view were:

  • “We are declaring today that we regard the field of endeavour that you work in, the people that you care about as being a national political priority”.
  • “I’m here today with Senator Cameron because we want to put community housing, affordable housing on the agenda for the next election.”
  • “If I’m elected Prime Minister, I want secure and affordable housing for Australians to be front and centre for the next decade and beyond.”
  • “Because building and funding affordable, community housing isn’t a welfare measure.It’s an economic lever.  It’s a massive job creator. It’s a crucial productivity driver.  And we need to re-imagine housing policy as an irreplaceable and central part of our infrastructure policy, of cities policy, of population policy.”

The hard numbers to back this up will be forthcoming at the ALP National Conference in December [as we understand].

The CHIA National Plan for Affordable Housing has been circulating in draft for some months now but the final version that was tabled looks great and reads well.  Its timing is excellent.  Key aspects of the plan are:

  • 100,000 extra affordable housing rental homes by 2028;
  • 100,000 extra social housing homes by 2028;
  • Halving of the rate of homelessness by 2028;
  • Efficiency and liveability goals;
  • Public housing stock transfer targets to CHPs (50% by 2028;
  • 10% of new supply over the next decade to be affordable (rent or purchase).

Doug Cameron was his usual gruff, authentic self. Knowing that he plans to leave the Parliament in 2019 we will all be the poorer for the loss of such a resolute fighter for a better-housed world. Doug’s points that I noted were:

  • He gave a swipe to the idea that market-based solutions were required (I could not find this suggestion in the CHIA National Plan);
  • He said that there would always need to be an effort to persuade a Treasurer (even an ALP one) once in office, that housing investment was a higher priority than the other deserving claims on public spending, but that the work/publications of PHA and CHIA were fantastic in this regard;
  • Political work to influence the cross benches was more useful than more effort to persuade the ALP (they get it already!).

As an “announcement about an announcement”, this is about as good as it gets!

David Cant is the former CEO of Brisbane Housing Company and is currently an independent Director of PowerHousing Australia and Director of the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation.