Wednesday, 25 October 2017
Treasury Laws Amendment (National Housing and Homelessness Agreement) Bill 2017; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill enacts the government's budget announcement to reform the way that the Commonwealth makes housing related payments to the states and territories. It supports improved housing and homelessness outcomes by requiring jurisdictions to develop a detailed housing and homelessness strategy and to commit to improved data collection and reporting in exchange for significant Commonwealth funding. This approach will secure improved outcomes but in a way that the government believes is reasonable, that is achievable for the states and territories and does not jeopardise the funding of core social housing and homelessness services.
The bill replaces the national specific purpose payment for housing services that supports the National Affordable Housing Agreement, or NAHA, and introduces new, conditional funding arrangements from 1 July 2018.
Housing is fundamental to the wellbeing of all Australians. It is a driver of social and economic participation and promotes better employment, education and health outcomes.
The government's comprehensive housing affordability plan announced in this year's budget includes measures that will support improved outcomes for Australians across the housing spectrum, from first home buyers and renters to those in need of crisis accommodation and those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
As part of this housing affordability plan, the government announced that it would be working with state and territory governments to introduce a new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to replace the NAHA. Since then, the government has engaged in a series of productive discussions with each and every state and territory.
Despite contributing over $9 billion to states and territories since 2009 to support the provision of social and affordable housing, the Council of Australian Governments' 2016 Report on performance found that the current NAHA has completely failed to deliver on three of its four key benchmarks and is unlikely to meet them.
These three benchmarks include a 10 per cent reduction nationally in the proportion of low-income renter households in rental stress from 2007-08 to 2015-16; a seven per cent reduction nationally in the number of homeless Australians from 2006 to 2013; and a 10 per cent increase nationally in the proportion of Indigenous households owning or purchasing a home from 2008 to 2017-18.
Other indicators confirm the extent of this failure. Growth in the size of the social housing stock has stagnated and numbers on waiting lists have increased.
The new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement will replace the NAHA and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. It will not only maintain the current levels of funding under these agreements but will also, for the first time, ensure that funding allocated to homelessness services will be permanent and indexed. Between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2021, this equates to total funding of around $4.6 billion, including $375.3 million of new funding for homelessness that will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the states and territories.
The new funding arrangements for homelessness will provide certainty to organisations that provide frontline homelessness services and will continue to support priority cohorts, including domestic violence victims and vulnerable young Australians.
The new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement will ensure that each state or territory acknowledges and addresses the specific challenges to their jurisdiction through comprehensive housing and homelessness strategies. It will contribute to the development of a comprehensive evidence base through improved collection and reporting of housing and homelessness related data. It will secure ongoing and indexed funding for homelessness services, and ensure that states and territories match the Commonwealth's funding contribution for homelessness services, again, dollar for dollar. Under this new agreement, all we ask of the states and territories is that they set out how they intend to implement their housing and homelessness strategies and assist the Commonwealth to improve the collection and reporting of relevant housing data.
The new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement will promote better outcomes for the Commonwealth's housing and homelessness funding, but in a way that acknowledges the different priorities and challenges faced by each state or territory without jeopardising the funding of crucial social housing and homelessness services.
Full details of the measure are contained in the explanatory memorandum.