Housing crisis

Leaders urge ACT government to address housing crisis

Leaders from Canberra’s community, housing and business sectors today called on the ACT Government to address the ACT housing crisis and commit to further action in the 2022 Budget -23 ACT.

Over the past few weeks, the ACT Social Services Council (ACTCOSS), the Canberra Chamber of Commerce, the Property Council, ACT Shelter and the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) have all presented submissions to the ACT government budget consultation ahead of the release of the ACT budget on 2 August.

A common theme running through all of the organisation’s submissions was the cost of living crisis and the unaffordability of housing for many Canberrans.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “Over 38,000 Canberrans live below the poverty line, including 9,000 children. Recent increases in the cost of living have been staggering and disproportionately affect all facets of life for low-income people.

“Households in the lowest income quintile spend more than 55% of their income on housing, food and transportation. It is the people hardest hit by these conditions who deteriorate. »

By far the biggest cost to people – whether employed in the public service, business or community sectors – is housing. The territory has the second highest average prices for real estate in the country and the highest average rents for a unit or apartment.

Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt explained: “As the economy recovers from the pandemic, businesses large and small are struggling to find and retain the workers and skills they need. . There are fantastic businesses here with great opportunities, but the cost and lack of housing is a major barrier to attracting workers, and often keeping them, to Canberra.

“This means that small businesses cannot grow and create more jobs, or they employ staff based elsewhere who do not contribute to the ACT, or in the worst case, they simply leave the Territory to settle elsewhere.”

ACT Shelter CEO Travis Gilbert continued: “Over the past 12 months, our already unaffordable housing market has become dire for first-time home buyers and renters. People earning less than $40,000 now spend so much of their salary on rent that they’re on the edge of the poverty line after paying the landlord. The flux effect is now evident.

“The number of Canberrans on the waiting list for social housing has increased by more than 20% over the same period, with over 3,000 Canberrans now waiting and hoping for safe accommodation.”

Andrew Hannan, CHIA National President and ACT Regional Committee Chair, said: “Our community housing provider members have an important role to play in investing alongside the ACT government to help meet the commitments of the master agreement to increase the supply of social and affordable rental housing.

“Gradual growth in supply is needed, and as in other jurisdictions, members cannot increase supply by launching new development projects in the absence of government subsidy, such as land at reduced, co-investments and planning concessions.”

Adina Cirson, Property Council’s ACT Executive Director, said: “With our median house prices at record highs and our residential vacancy rates at record highs, we need to act now to ensure we have the right kinds of housing where and when we need it.

“This means we need a good supply of land to release in the inner suburbs, as well as green development areas and planning controls that allow for a diversity of housing choices to meet the needs of our growing population. and aging. We all need to work together to start dealing with the crisis that is here right now. »

Dr Campbell concluded: “The Government Housing Strategy 2018-2028 and the 10th Parliamentary and Government Agreement commit to increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. But its targets only scratch the surface of unmet needs.

“The agreement commits to providing 600 new affordable rentals, against a modeled need of 3,400 additional units, and 400 new social housing units against a modeled need of 3,100.

“As leaders from the community, business and housing sectors, we collectively call on the government to urgently review its housing strategy. The community, housing and business sectors are ready to contribute their ideas and expertise to the review.

“A lot has changed since 2018. There is low-cost funding available nationwide that has funded over 15,000 new or improved affordable housing units in other states and territories. The ACT government has a new build-to-rent program that could significantly increase affordable rents if bidding decisions prioritize it. Any subsidy should only be given to community housing providers who are uniquely positioned to provide affordable long-term rents.

“Canberra needs an updated strategy with revised targets that respond to the housing crisis so that everyone in Canberra can find housing, and our city remains an attractive place to move to find employment. The strategy should be accompanied by an implementation plan that builds on existing government programs and contains new commitments and increased investments, particularly to boost community housing stock.

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