Housing Australia Future Fund legislation update

After the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) and related bills’ passage in the House in February, the bills went to the Senate where they have been considered by the Economics Legislation Committee. The Committee received extensive evidence in PowerHousing’s written submission, along with 24 other submissions from peak bodies, research institutions and government departments. Public hearings on the HAFF were held on 15 March, the day that our CEOs also met with Minister Julie Collins to discuss the HAFF next steps. The Hansard for our hearings as witnesses to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee into the HAFF bills can be read here. A detailed outline of the Senate report with commentary can be found here.

The past month has been crucial for the HAFF. We have been informing Senators and MPs across the political divide on the importance of the HAFF and how CHPs can work to deliver the promised 30,000 homes. PowerHousing’s efforts with sector and wider industry to see the negotiations on the legislation conclude has been repeatedly called up in the House (Feb 2023 and Mar 2023) and the Senate (Mar 2023) Question Time.

With the Australian Greens and Independents in the Senate pushing for more—the Greens for a doubling of the CRA and the HAFF to be expanded to a $5b annual payment program and Senator Pocock for removal of the $500m cap and increase to $10b fund—the HAFF was delayed in part due to failure to reach consensus. The focus on the National Reconstruction Fund and the Climate Safeguard Mechanism also layed a part in this delay. Both measures passed the Senate with support of the Australian Greens.

Whilst this hard stance taken by the Australian Greens is noted, there was little chance that the Australian Greens would concede ground on three of the ALPs key 2022 election policies in the one week and would need ‘fresh meat’. This was reported in an AFR Article which PowerHousing featured in.

Whilst there was little time for the debate in the Senate for the HAFF due to prioritisation of these other bills, the risk that it would be voted down if brought to the floor was real. The Government was standing fairly firm on the HAFF as is, resisting proposed amendments from the Greens. The Government are willing to give some ground, but concerning comments were made by the Prime Minister that the Government is willing to take the HAFF in its current form to the next election if need be. As per Powerhousing commentary, Australians can and will always decide whether the measures are enough, but doing nothing over this next period would be neglectful in the duty to Australians in reducing their cost of living.

Next steps

With some heat coming out of the discussions, the passage of the housing bills has paused until the May sittings. It is fair to say that much more needs to be done, but the legislation, with negotiated amendments, needs to be resolved.

The period between now and the Budget will be a key time to influence both sides to reach an agreement. Senators need to come to an agreement because the cost of failure to those most in need is too high.

PowerHousing will continue media and direct engagements to urge that negotiations be concluded. Many more packages for housing are needed and this is the necessary first step to the address housing affordability. We will also be assisting Members to further engage with MPs and Senators.

In closing, Powerhousing is confident that negotiations for the HAFF will see enhanced outcomes and the effort to start tackling the housing crisis will prevail.