Reaction: Budget’s social housing boost falls short in eyes of experts

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
9 Min Read

The Federal Government’s budget funding announcement to rebuild Australia’s declining social housing sector has received mixed reviews from housing experts, with some saying the increase won’t be enough to have any significant impact.

Last night’s budget revealed a more than $2 billion boost to the already announced $9.3 billion commitments over five years for social housing services as the government digs deep for solutions to the nation’s ongoing housing crisis. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the budget as “less talk and more homes”, with plenty of incentives and assistance to help demolish the roadblocks currently preventing the construction industry from building more homes.

But some say a scattergun approach has left the government spreading itself too thin in essential areas, one of which is social housing, with authorities desperately needing to rebuild housing stock. 

Social housing stock shrinking

The gradual slimming of Australia’s social housing supply has been an ongoing issue, leading to 69,000 fewer social housing properties than a decade ago and increasing pressure on an already “at capacity” private rental market.

The Australian Government had already promised to produce 30,000 social housing homes within the next five years as part of the recently passed Housing Supply Bill’s Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF).

Treasurer Jim Chalmers described housing as a government priority and a big focus of the 2024-25 budget, saying the extra social housing funding would help alleviate the nation’s current housing woes.

“We’re delivering billions more dollars in the budget to build more homes across the country because we know that to address this housing challenge, we need to boost supply,” he said.

“Australia needs to build more homes more quickly, and that’s what this substantial investment will help to deliver.”

The financial boost will help build upon the government’s outstanding commitments to those doing it tough, with a total of $2 billion to finance more social and affordable rental homes, $2.7 billion to increase the rate of commonwealth rent assistance, $5.5 billion for the Help to Buy scheme, $3 billion to incentive states and territories to build more homes and $2 billion to build 4,000 new social homes under the nationwide Social Housing Accelerator alongside the $9.3 billion HAFF fund. 

Housing Minister Julie Collins says the government’s Homes for Australia plan would speed up the pace of housing construction and ultimately help those most in need. 

“Building more homes is the best way to address Australia’s housing challenges, and this is exactly what Homes for Australia will deliver,” she said. 

“We’re working across government, and with other tiers of government, to achieve the ambitious national target of 1.2 million new homes by the end of the decade.”

Social housing pledge falls short of experts hopes

The Community Housing Industry Association welcomed the 2024/2025 budget commitments but said the government would ultimately need to double the Housing Australia Future Fund to resolve the nation’s social housing shortage.

“The extra infrastructure funding for social housing in the new five-year agreement with the states is also a very welcome addition,” CEO Wendy Hayhurst said.  

“In the years ahead we plan to continue working with the Commonwealth to deal with the deep shortage of social and affordable housing Australia confronts. The current shortfall of 640,000 homes will not resolve itself, and there is a pressing case to double the Housing Australia Future Fund.”

“Community housing organisations have already submitted plans to build an additional 26,000 homes this year alone, with plans for a further 34,000 in the pipeline. With appropriate resourcing, we can make a real dent in Australia’s housing challenge.”

National Shelter, Australia’s peak body to improve housing outcomes for low-income Australians, said the budget’s housing policies were a step in the right direction but lacked bold and ambitious housing reform. 

“The Commonwealth government have made significant investment towards solving the housing crisis since coming to office and this Budget builds on that investment by targeting initiatives to remove impediments to the construction of housing including training construction workers and funding enabling infrastructure,” CEO Emma Greenhalgh said.

These are critical measures to expedite the supply of new housing to the market and also contribute to speeding up the supply of social and affordable housing.”

Some analysts were even less optimistic about the budget announcements, with Urbis City Strategist and Urban Designer Riley Flanigan telling ABC radio that the budget commitments don’t go far enough. 

“The best I could say about it is that it is a step in the right direction,” Mr Flanigan said. 

“It’s a step in the right direction, but I think if we zoom forward 10-15 years, we will look back and ask, is this the only thing we did?”

Mr Flanigan says current social housing commitments won’t even achieve half the amount of homes social housing needs will require during the next half-decade. 

“If you think about the HAFF, it promises to build 30,000 social housing units over five years nationally, and that’s not even going to cover half the rate the social housing shortages are expected to grow over the same five-year period; it’s not even covering the social housing shortage in Queensland (alone),”  he said. 

“In the 50s through to the 80s, the government built a significant amount more public housing than they are now, and I think we should go back to those levels of public housing being built.”

“We should be treating this as a national emergency.”

However, Mr Flanigan did praise the government’s strategy of spreading its bets in a bid to beat the housing crisis by focusing on multiple policy areas. 

“Because this is such a nebulous problem with its tentacles in every corner of the economy, there is not just one dimension to the issue or a silver bullet. We need full-scale mobilisation across all levels of government, economy, federal, slate and local policy to attack this from every angle and give us a chance of beating it,” he said. 

Meanwhile Housing Crisis campaign group Everybody’s Home was also left disappointed by the budget, saying any funding improvements to social housing were simply a result of political smoke and mirrors.

“The federal government has delivered a Budget that will keep pushing up housing costs for Australians who are already battling a brutal housing market,” spokesperson Maiy Azize said.

“There is no new funding for social housing. What the government has announced is a business as usual spend that is nowhere near enough to shift the dial on the housing crisis.” 

Ms Azize says the budget had just repackaged existing initiatives to make it seem like more was being done to solve the social housing situation. 

“The government’s ‘new’ funding for social housing is a repackaging of existing initiatives, offering loans instead of providing real funding, and the continuation of a funding agreement with the states and territories – something the Commonwealth routinely renews for other essential services like education and health.”

“If the government was serious about tackling this crisis, it would build more social housing to end the massive shortfall. These are the rentals people can actually afford. A target for the private sector will only deliver more of the same – homes that are way too expensive for average people.”

“Australia’s housing crisis has never been worse. Fixing it will mean spending real money to build social housing for more renters, and putting people who need homes ahead of investors.”

Share This Article
Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.