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Viewpoint: Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz talks National Housing Supply and Affordability Council

In this Viewpoint interview for AHURI News, we spoke with Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, chair of the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council and the CEO of Mirvac Group, to understand how the Council will help Government to deliver new housing supply.

18 Sep 2023

As part of its election promises to improve housing affordability across Australia, the Commonwealth Government has created the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council. As an independent statutory advisory body, the Council will inform the Commonwealth’s approach to housing policy by delivering independent advice on options to improve housing supply and affordability.

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz

How important is the Council?

‘The Council is important, but it’s only a small part of a very complex system.’

‘It’s not an exaggeration to say we are in a housing a crisis’, says Susan.

‘We’ve got a really difficult situation which has been decades in the making. It’s a collective problem in need of a collective solution.’ ‘We need the whole system to work. We need market housing because if market housing becomes less and less affordable it just pushes people down the chain. It used to be aspirational to move out of social housing but now that doesn’t happen. We need the whole system to be fixed so we’ve got different housing types in different locations at different price points close to amenities, close to jobs.’

What does the Council do?

‘The Council exists to provide evidence-based advice to the federal Housing Minister’, says Susan. ‘Advice can flow in two ways: one way is to provide advice the Minister asks us for or that we’re tasked to do under the legislation, and the other is to proactively advise on items that we feel as a council we would like to provide advice on.’

As well as providing advice directly targeted at developing new and affordable housing policies and strategies, the Council has other important roles supporting Government.

‘The goal is to have one repository of data,’ says Susan. The next bit of work we’re about to embark on is the ‘State of the housing market’ report, which has moved from NHFIC (the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation) to the Council. Where previously NHFIC produced that report every year, now the Council is embarking on delivering that report next year.’

The Council is also working alongside the Department of Social Services (DSS) in the development of the 10-year National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

‘The Council has a large part to play in helping guide and review the inputs into that Plan because DSS’s remit is clearly around social housing and where there are social services and support required’, says Susan. ‘The broader market including affordable and ‘at market’ housing, the whole system really, is something more than DSS’s day job. So, we’ve got a significant role to play in reviewing the draft issues paper, the draft report, we’ll provide input into different sections of that report.’

The Council is also in the early days of developing a supply and demand model for how housing works in Australia.

How does the Council work on a day-to-day basis?

‘The Council is supported by a very talented group of people who work in Treasury,’ says Susan. ‘It includes data scientists, analysts, researchers, writers and a secretariat. They’re separate from the rest of Treasury, but it’s a model that has been set up to maximise the effectiveness and lower the cost of running the Council.’

‘We’re supposed to meet six times a year, I think we’ve already met way more than that in the first six months because people have a genuine desire to make a difference. The council doesn’t want to sit there and be light touch, it’s a really “roll your sleeves up” type of council of people. There’s a real appetite for doing real work and not just being a review body or a talk fest.’

The benefits of diverse views in the Council

‘One of the things I appreciate about the council is the genuine diversity of people on the council’, says Susan. ‘We have people who have been involved in local government, there are people who have been involved in women’s refuges, we’ve got planning experts, we’ve got academics, we’ve got me as a practitioner for the last 10 years; really diverse views, which makes for really examining issues from all sorts of angles. It’s actually one of the most diverse groups of people that I’ve ever worked with, and it really demonstrates that diverse groups do make better decisions because there are genuinely things people say in the council meeting where I think I’ve never thought of the problem from that perspective before ever.’

The first Council advice report

The first advice report that the Council was asked to give to the Minister has just been released (in early mid-September 2023).

‘The first thing that the council was tasked under the legislation to provide to the Housing Minister was a report on the barriers to institutional investment in housing in Australia’, says Susan. ‘Australian institutions invest in what’s called Build to rent in the UK quite happily but why is that the superannuation funds do not invest in it here?’

‘We know from the UK that the right policy settings can significantly increase the provision of secure rental stock owned by institutions for long term income. That sector in the UK has grown from £10 billion in 2012 to £43 billion today: in a decade, they’ve put £30 billion to work creating new rental stock in secure rental housing formats.’

The report has made 11 proposals that the Council believes will stimulate institutional investing in Australian housing.

‘In the UK, the government provided government guaranteed loans for 50 per cent of the construction cost, and then they provided a government guarantee for financing in the operational phase of the asset. They also made some changes to how proposals could be assessed by the government to make explicit the value of providing social and affordable housing, so essentially a form of inclusionary zoning.’

‘We also see there’s a role for more financial aggregators in the market. There’s NHFIC as an aggregator that will funnel the $500 million a year into the community housing providers but there’s probably a role for private commercial aggregators as well. There are attempts in the superannuation funds to start their own aggregators, pooling together their funds, to act together to defuse the risk of an emerging industry.’

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz to speak at 2023 AHURI National Housing Conference

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz will be a key speaker at the 2023 National Housing Conference, being held in Brisbane from Tuesday 10 October to Thursday 12 October. To find out more, please visit the Conference website here.

National Housing Conference: A way forward

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz will be a key speaker at the 2023 National Housing Conference, being held in Brisbane from Tuesday 10 October to Thursday 12 October.