AHURI NEWS

Ministerial speeches lead AHURI conference

Hundreds of delegates attend second national event for 2016

25 October 2016

Over 200 housing professionals and policy makers from across Australia attended the AHURI one-day conference, The future of housing assistance on 19 October.

In his first address to the housing sector, Senator Zed Seselja, newly-appointed Assistant Minister for Social Services, noted the ongoing importance of well-targeted housing assistance for the community.

Senator the Hon Zed Seselja speaking at the AHURI conference
Senator the Hon Zed Seselja

He also stressed that, for the money it commits to housing assistance programs through the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), Government needs transparency in the outcomes that are achieved. ‘We need to be able to demonstrate that the money we spend under NAHA leads to more housing for more Australians’, he said.

In addition, Senator Seselja outlined that the Australian Government is actively looking at coordinated housing reform. ‘In particular, we are also beginning to have conversations about how planning and zoning issues can be a key impediment to increasing housing supply and improving affordability. To this end, we are keen to engage with states and territories, the housing sector and other key stakeholders around how we might examine current policy settings and consider options to achieve improved outcomes.’

South Australian Minister for Social Housing Zoe Bettison outlined social housing initiatives being undertaken by the State Government. This includes the allocation of $150,000 into ‘developing a shared equity model whereby older women at risk of homelessness who lack money but have plenty of capacity  can own and control their housing future’, and described the aim of South Australia’s first social impact bond, which aims to provide housing and case management to end homelessness for 400 people. Investor returns are linked to client participation and successful outcomes.

... Senator Zed Seselja, newly-appointed Assistant Minister for Social Services, noted the ongoing importance of well-targeted housing assistance for the community  ...

Mick de Brenni, the Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works, reiterated a strong belief that government should be fully responsible for providing public housing. The Minister also stated that he did not believe the community housing sector was able to leverage from the transfers of public housing to build more homes as was supposed to happen.

‘From 2009 to 2010 we saw a pretty significant increase in community managed housing paid for by the Commonwealth through nation building funding, around $4.2 billion worth of housing was introduced into the system,’ he said. ‘Yet since 2011 there’s been no significant growth. The question I ask is, why haven’t we seen the billions of dollars injected into the sector’s balance sheets leveraged to build more houses for people? If stock transfers at scale are meant to be the silver bullet that unlocks that significant growth at what point are we going to see that growth actually eventuate?’

If stock transfers at scale are meant to be the silver bullet that unlocks that significant growth at what point are we going to see that growth actually eventuate? (Hon Mick de Brenni MP)

Following the Ministerial speeches, delegates were presented with the latest AHURI research on housing assistance and need. New research by Professor Gavin Wood from RMIT University estimates an almost 40% increase in private renters between 2011 and 2031 and a 30% increase in the need for housing assistance over the period. The research identified secure lease agreements in the private rental sector supported by government premiums to landlords as one means of targeting housing assistance in a sector constrained by supply.

Hon Mick de Brenni MP
Hon Mick de Brenni MP

The program then moved in to an examination of a range of strategies to assist in increasing affordable housing supply. Strategies presented included asset renewal, such as that underway in NSW under the ‘Communities Plus’ program, new forms of investment into affordable housing and the development of a large scale affordable housing industry at scale. It was largely agreed by panel members and delegates that it was likely to be a mixture of these strategies that would most benefit the sector in the years ahead.

Understanding the importance of strong tenancy management to housing assistance, the penultimate panel session discussed a range of tenancy engagement strategies including integrated services delivery, early intervention and prevention and consumer based strategies aimed at improving customer service and choice for tenants. The panel argued that seeing tenants as customers was critical to improving tenancy management and that increasing choice for tenants can create more sustainable tenancies.

The conference concluded with an international keynote address from Professor Larry Murphy from the University of Auckland who examined many of the housing reform strategies undertaken in New Zealand in recent years and related those strategies to many of the key points examined over the course of the day.

Selected videos along with a range of presentations from conference speakers are now available.

Adelaide conference 2016 audience