House debates

Thursday, 15 February 2024


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

12:24 pm

Photo of Kate ThwaitesKate Thwaites (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Okay, so we're going back 20 years now. You can also reflect on 20 years before that as well, if you'd like to. Thank you, member for Kennedy. History is important and it is important to learn from history.

Alright: time for reflection, time to learn from history, but also time for those opposite to think about how they're going to support Australians in a cost-of-living crisis and how they're going to support Australians into homeownership, because buying a home is a big deal. It is such a huge step in anyone's life. In some ways, that homeownership represents more than just the roof over your head. It is that sense of stability and security that we know comes from owning your own home. We also know that that sense of stability and security is too far out of reach for many Australians at the moment.

That's why this government is working to help more Australians into homeownership, to change that.. This Help to Buy program will support thousands of Australians to make that homeownership dream a reality, supporting those thousands of Australians who are branching out on their own, moving on from their parents' place or a share house and going to their own place to call home. This is life changing. We know that housing affordability is front of mind for many Australians. Help to Buy will take what can currently seem impossible and put that homeownership dream within reach.

Owning your own home is a big step in your life. And I know that it's something that many young people think about at the moment. I know it's something that their parents think about at the moment. And I can see why, when we look at the numbers. Young people today are good savers, just like the generations before them. But unlike those previous generations they can face a much steeper climb to reach the point where they can afford to buy and own a home. On the latest data, a house in my community costs around $1.2 million, on average. That is a lot of money. And it is no wonder that young people who are looking to get into the market look at a figure like that and think, 'How could I ever buy a home?'

The data shows us how much this picture of trying to enter the market has changed over recent decades. If you were a young couple looking to buy in my community back in 1991, a house would have cost $152,000 on average. Today we have a figure of $1.2 million. On that figure, a young couple looking to buy their first home today is paying eight times what a couple of their parents' generation paid back in 1991. If the couple of today manages to save enough and purchase their first home with a mortgage, they're facing a situation where a household in Victoria earning an average income needs to spend 35 per cent of its earnings on mortgage repayments. That is at its highest level since 1990. When you look at data like that, it is no wonder that parents in my community tell me how concerned they are at the prospect of their kids and other younger people in the community struggling to afford to buy their first home or potentially having to buy their first home when they're much older than they would like. That, again, is why we need initiatives like this one on help to buy. For 40,000 Australian households, it'll be the difference between the status quo we have and owning one's own home.

I know that people in my electorate love the area they live in. They value being in Melbourne's north-east, with the trees, the rivers, the parks, the local shops, and the strong sense of volunteerism and community spirit that we see in so many different ways. It's natural, then, that young people who have grown up in my community want to buy in our community. They want to stay with family, friends and areas that they know. Our part of Melbourne is a great place to live, and I am excited at the prospect that Help to Buy will be able to help locals in Jagajaga to buy a home in our community—a place to call their own.

I know, as I said, that this is something that many people in my community care deeply about. I hear from plenty of residents who tell me how concerned they are about how difficult it can be for those young homebuyers to get into the market. Alison from Greensborough told me that she feels the young are disadvantaged in so many ways now, and she highlighted the impacts that housing affordability has had on them. Tim from Heidelberg Heights told me in a community survey that I conducted last year: 'Housing affordability is definitely on the top of my list. This is quite a lovely neighbourhood and community, and it's a shame that it's just so difficult to buy into.' Samantha from Eltham shared her concern: as a parent with young adults at home, she worried about their ability to afford their own home. Only recently, I've had a dad from Eltham North get in touch with me and my office, keen to find out about the progress of this very scheme that we are debating. His daughter is now at the age where she wants to move out, and he is keen to see this in place. So again I say to those opposite: get on board. Let's get it through the parliament. With Help to Buy, there will be another avenue for potential homebuyers to consider as they ready themselves for taking the huge step of buying a home. I know that will mean a great deal to families—to potential homebuyers but also to their parents and other people who want to see them have that sense of security.

Of course, the Help to Buy Bill is one part of the step forward our government is taking as we deliver the most significant housing reforms in a generation. This scheme will bring homeownership back into reach for 40,000 households, supporting eligible homebuyers with an equity contribution of up to 40 per cent for new homes and up to 30 per cent for existing homes. It will be open to applications for four years, with 10,000 places available each year. The support it will provide will give those on low or middle incomes an opportunity to buy a home with at least a two per cent deposit, assisting them to become homeowners, many for the first time. It will mean they gain the short- and long-term stability and economic security that owning a home provides. While they're participating in the scheme, they'll have lower ongoing repayments, so it's not just a short-term help; it provides the long-term relief that people need to get to a point of certainty and stability.

It is part of broader efforts, as I said. We've already supported 86,000 Australians right across the country to make that dream of homeownership a reality through the Home Guarantee Scheme. This work has significantly expanded the operation of the Home Guarantee Scheme, and there is more that we are doing as part of this ambitious slate of work in housing. There's the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, delivered by our government last year. The Housing Australia Future Fund is another thing that those opposite told us shouldn't happen. They spoke out against it. They spoke out against work to put more Australians into houses. In fact, our government got on with it, representing the single biggest investment to support social and affordable housing in this country in more than a decade. Only Labor does this work. Only Labor does the real reform that delivers things like the Housing Australia Future Fund, which supports Australians to get into social and affordable housing. Only Labor does work like the Help to Buy scheme, which supports Australians to reach the dream of first home ownership.

We are doing other work to support Australians to get into secure housing. There is the $2 billion social housing accelerator, which will deliver 4,000 new social homes across Australia. My state, Victoria, has received almost $500 million of this funding, and I know how important that is to my community and to many communities across Victoria. There is the National Housing Accord, which includes federal funding to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over five years, with that number to double thanks to the matched commitment of the states and territories. We have increased the maximum rate of Commonwealth rent assistance by 15 per cent, which is the largest increase in more than 30 years. This increase is helping around 6,590 households in the electorate of Jagajaga alone. We're unlocking the $575 million from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, with homes under construction as a result, and an extra $1 billion to support even more housing. We've provided a $67.5 million boost to homelessness funding over this year, alongside our new National Housing and Homelessness Plan. We have a new national target to build 1.2 million well located homes, and we have A Better Deal for Renters to strengthen renters rights. Right across the board, we are doing the work that those opposite failed to do in nearly a decade in government. We are getting on with work that is urgently needed in my community and in communities right across this country, to give people that dream of first home ownership, to allow people to get into social and affordable housing and to allow renters to have the security and rights that they should. This is work that the Labor government is getting on with, without any help from those opposite.

We're trying to come back from a decade of missed opportunities. It was a decade where we had governments obviously very focused on internal matters. They were important internal matters, like who was going to be the next prime minister. I'm not saying that's not important, but it certainly didn't seem to result in extra housing for Australians. It certainly didn't seem to result in the federal government investing in social and affordable housing across this country. It certainly didn't seem to be a focus, as I said before, for any of the members opposite who did take part in that ABC series that we've all been enjoying so much over the past few fortnights. Maybe some of the others who we did not hear from in that series were very occupied with housing policy. Maybe there's a whole separate documentary to be made on debates about housing policy within the Liberal and National parties over their decade in government, and I shall look forward to that if it does come forward. But I don't think it's there, because I don't think those were the debates that were happening in that party room. I don't think the focus was on how to get Australians into housing. I don't think the focus was on how to make sure there is social and affordable housing in the communities that need it in our country. I think the focus was on themselves.

The Labor government came into office, and we have been very clear that we do want Australians to have access to good housing. We are doing work at a national level with the states and territories. We are investing in a way that national governments have never invested in these types of programs. It is hugely important work. There is a lot of work still to do. I urge those opposite to get on board. Help us do this important work to get Australians into homes and support communities like mine and yours that need affordable housing and that security that comes with having a roof over your head and homeownership. It is the great Australian dream. I'm proud that our government is helping more Australians to realise that dream.


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