House debates

Thursday, 15 February 2024


Help to Buy Bill 2023, Help to Buy (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2023; Second Reading

11:58 am

Photo of Louise Miller-FrostLouise Miller-Frost (Boothby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It's really good to hear from the Greens political party that they're suddenly in favour of public housing since they delayed the HAFF, which delayed building social housing. Now they're threatening to do the same with the Help to Buy Bill 2023. They run petitions against social housing in their own electorates. I'd encourage them to actually back housing strategies, instead of just talking about it and campaigning about it. Labor, on the other hand, actually has a range of strategies, because the housing and homelessness market is a very complex thing. No one strategy is going to fix it. We have a raft of strategies, and that's what's important.

Labor took the Help to Buy policy to the 2022 election as one of our election commitments. As someone who has actually worked in the housing and homelessness sectors, I talked about it extensively. The Help to Buy Bill 2023 and the Help to Buy (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2023 give effect to this commitment and provide for Housing Australia to administer the Help to Buy scheme, supported by a referral power from the states. States will be required to pass legislation for the scheme to operate in their jurisdictions. The territories don't require this. All states agreed at the National Cabinet in August to progress legislation, so the scheme will run nationally.

The Help to Buy shared-equity scheme will support up to 40,000 Australian households to purchase a home of their own. Under the scheme, the Commonwealth will provide an equity contribution to eligible participants of up to 40 per cent of the purchase price for new homes and 30 per cent for existing homes. The scheme will be open to applications for four years, with 10,000 places available per year. The Help to Buy scheme will be delivered by Housing Australia and supported by a panel of lenders. This will fulfil the government's election commitment to establish a national shared-equity scheme. It's expected that states will pass legislation this year. Consistent with general practice for referrals of power, at least one state must pass the legislation before the Commonwealth passes Help to Buy legislation.

During the election campaign, the Liberal Party strongly attacked the Help to Buy commitment and attempted to stoke doubt about several elements of this policy. You can hear the scare campaign from the opposition here today. But governments have helped people buy homes in different ways for much of our nation's history, and the more we can do for low- and middle-income households to realise their housing aspirations, the better it will be for all of us as a society and as a community. Shared equity is not some scary, untested concept; it's been around in various forms for decades, overseas and in my home state of South Australia. In South Australia, a couple of versions of shared-equity models have been available for decades, initially through the South Australian Housing Trust and then through the SA government's statutory authority, HomeStart Finance.

In the 1970s, the South Australian Housing Trust offered progressive purchase plans, where a person could buy their home in 25 per cent chunks over time and pay rent on the unpurchased portion. This was essentially a shared-equity plan where people could take out a mortgage against portion of the property, pay it off and then purchase a further portion as they could afford it. HomeStart Finance is a statutory authority founded in 1989 by the SA government, and it started doing modern shared-equity loans back in 2007. That's 17 years of successful shared equity, and they've done 2½ thousand shared-equity loans in that time. They've been getting more popular in recent years. The community knows that this is an affordable and low-risk option to get into the property market, and the market knows that shared equity does not push prices up. That's unlike many other government homebuyer strategies, including some favoured by those opposite—such as raiding superannuation accounts, which is widely panned by the housing market. I'll get back to that disastrous policy later.

The Liberals' attack on shared equity is another way of Liberals attacking the aspirations of low- and middle-income earning Australians. They don't want them to get ahead, they didn't want them to get wage rises, they don't want them to get tax cuts, and they don't want them getting into homeownership. These nonsense attacks included suggestions that Prime Minister Albanese would be sitting at your kitchen table. I'm sure he'd love an invitation, but I understand he's pretty busy! He's got a wedding to organise, now! But seriously, shared equity is an established, legitimate and secure method of getting into homeownership. Some of the other scare campaigns those opposite have tried have been about participants having to sell their homes if they receive a pay rise over the income threshold. Again, I would encourage those opposite to inform themselves about how shared equity has already worked in South Australia and other jurisdictions around the world.

Those opposite are standing in the way of the aspirations of Australians who want to own their own home. Their efforts to try and prevent low- and middle-income Australians having this option to enter the housing market are quite disgusting but, of course, fit in line with their efforts to keep wages low and prevent workers having a tax cut. This Liberal Party and National Party opposition have lined themselves up well and truly against low- and middle-income Australian families, and their proposed housing strategy of raiding superannuation has already been widely panned by the sector. But let's take a look at it anyway.

The starting propositions that people on low and middle incomes, including of course young first home buyers have enough superannuation in their accounts to be able to raid it in the first place. Secondly, I don't believe that anyone of those opposite doesn't understand the power of compounding interest. So their proposal is deliberately targeted to make sure that first home buyers, those on low and middle incomes, do not have the benefit of compounding interest in their superannuation account. Every dollar taken out of superannuation accounts in early career will have to be replaced by multiple dollars in the future to achieve the same balance at retirement.

Thirdly, while we know those opposite are short term thinkers when they are focused on fixing one problem now—housing deposits, they ignore what they know would be causing future problems for individuals involved and for the country as a whole. Lower superannuation balances mean greater dependence on age pensions in the future and that means a greater budget cost for future governments. But they're only interested in the next election. How unusual that the Liberal and National parties would raid money from superannuation balances of Australians but set the country up for financial bills in the future—very typical.

And fourthly—this is the feedback from the housing sector locally and internationally—injecting more money into the housing market in this manner means the market automatically adjusts to account for it. Housing prices rise, making the problem worse. How does that help? They know this. They know the problems with their failed raiding-your-superannuation policy. They were pointed out to them by the sector in the last election and also by us. nonetheless they have taken up this failed policy, dusted it off, taken it out as a talking point, so it looks like they have something to offer. It is really just an extended play of saying no. It is just a way of saying no but pretending you have something to offer.

So how will the government's Help to Buy Scheme work? Help to Buy will support up to 40,000 eligible Australians to purchase a home by providing an equity contribution of up to 40 per cent of the purchase price for new homes and up to 30 per cent for existing homes. The scheme will be open to applications for four years with 10,000 places each year. The Help to Buy Bill 2023 gives Housing Australia the power to enter into shared equity arrangements. The scheme will give those on low and middle incomes an opportunity to buy a home with a minimum two per cent deposit, allowing them access to home ownership. Having worked in the homelessness sector, I know that homeownership is linked to short, medium and long-term economic security, so this scheme will help participants overcome the dual barriers of homeownership—saving for the deposit and affording the mortgage. The deposit can be as low as two per cent. With the Commonwealth providing an equity contribution, participants will have smaller home loans and, consequently, smaller ongoing repayments.

But the Help to Buy Scheme is just one element of the government's comprehensive housing plan. The supply shortage and affordability issues have been a long time coming and no one strategy is a solution to the entire problem. Some of the strategies already announced include the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, which the Greens political party delayed to the distress of the entire social and community housing sector but is now being rolled out, and the $3 billion social housing accelerator payment, the largest increase to Commonwealth rent assistance in 30 years. The Labor expanded and improved Home Guarantee Scheme has helped 100,000 Australians into home ownership. That means almost one in three first home buyers in the last financial year was supported by the scheme. This is a significant increase from previous years of the former Liberal government and demonstrates that Labor's expansion and changes to the scheme are working and are meeting the needs of the community. The Home Guarantee Scheme sits alongside Help to Buy as part of the Albanese government's agenda to support home ownership.

This government understands that affordable housing is critical to economic wellbeing and is committed to supporting more Australians to be able to access housing. The Help to Buy Scheme is an important part of that raft of strategies to make housing more affordable and accessible for Australians. I commend the bill to the House.


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