Thursday, 18 October 2018
National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation Amendment Bill 2018; Second Reading
That this bill ne now read a second time.
In the 2017-18 Budget, the government announced that it would establish the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC), a new independent corporate Commonwealth entity, to operate an affordable housing bond aggregator to provide cheaper and longer-term finance for community housing providers. This was intended to ensure that Australians, particularly vulnerable Australians, have more opportunities to access affordable housing.
Prior to the NHFIC Act being passed, the government and the opposition worked together and committed to amendments that would ensure that the board would have the appropriate skills to oversee NHFIC's activities and that after two years a review would be conducted on the operation of the NHFIC Act.
This bill implements this bipartisan commitment by making explicit that the board of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation must collectively have an appropriate balance of qualifications, skills and experience in a relevant field (being banking and finance, law, housing, infrastructure planning and financing, local government, and public policy), and that at least one board member must have appropriate qualifications, skills or experience in social or affordable housing.
The bill also provides for the statutory review of the operation of the NHFIC Act to occur after the period of two years from the commencement of the act, rather than three.
In addition, the government is bringing forward planned annual appropriations for the purpose of the affordable housing bond aggregator to allow NHFIC to redraw amounts repaid to the Commonwealth. The amendments ensure that NHFIC is better placed to respond to demands from community housing providers. The amendments also provide certainty over NHFIC's available finance in future years so it can commit to potential loan transactions. To facilitate this, the bill provides for the creation of a special account for the purposes of the $1 billion line of credit appropriated to the Department of Treasury for the bond aggregator function of NHFIC.
Upon the commencement of the bill, the $150 million already appropriated to the Commonwealth for the purpose of the affordable housing bond aggregator is credited to the special account. The bill also appropriates the remaining $850 million of the $1 billion line of credit, which is to be credited to the special account over four years from the commencement of the bill.
The amendments fulfil the original intent for line of credit to be ongoing, by providing for the $1 billion to be reused and by avoiding the lapsing of any undrawn funds three years after appropriation.
This bill will help secure and improve NHFIC, who play a key part in the government's plan to help reduce pressure on housing affordability.
Full details of the measure are in the explanatory memorandum. I commend the bill to the House.