Scott Morrison Has Helpfully Reminded Us That He Doesn’t Give A Shit About Housing Affordability

Who needs a house anyway?

There aren’t many things more Australian than a wildly over-inflated housing market geared towards investors that has completely shattered the dreams of an entire generation of young people. Koalas, beaches and paying $2.5 million for a rundown shed in Glebe sum up the modern Australian experience.

Most of us know that there’s a serious housing crisis underway. Both Sydney and Melbourne have made the most recent list of the 10 least affordable cities in the world. But the federal government used a parliamentary inquiry into housing affordability last year to deny that there was anything wrong.

And now there are reports the federal government will scrap the National Housing Affordability Agreement (NAHA), a $1.5 billion a year partnership with state governments to help roll out affordable housing.

Because if there’s one thing Australia needs less of, it’s affordable housing.

According to the treasurer, Scott Morrison, the NAHA hasn’t worked as intended and its failure to boost affordable housing stock is a “national disgrace”. While advocacy groups have acknowledged that the program could be reformed and better targeted, they’ve warned that scrapping the program entirely could lead an even bigger homelessness crisis.

“If Melbourne thinks it’s got a rough sleeping problem now, it would pale into insignificance compared to what would be unleashed by this,” National Shelter’s executive officer Adrian Pisarski told The Guardian.

According to Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive officer of the Australian Council of Social Services, “the NAHA is the only federal funding for public housing and homelessness services.”

“It would make no sense for the Commonwealth to abandon its responsibility to fund essential social housing and homelessness services at a time when people living on the streets is at crisis levels and housing affordability a chronic problem,” she said.

The government’s failure to crack down on negative gearing has created a pretty strong perception that they just don’t give a shit about housing affordability. But scrapping a program designed to fund affordable housing and homelessness preventative measures just looks spiteful.

Advocacy groups have openly admitted the program could work better. They want state governments to match the federal government when it comes to funding, and for the program to be more transparent and accountable. But they don’t think the NAHA’s flaws mean it should be wiped out altogether. Fair enough.

Last week the senate passed a motion on housing put forward by Labor and the Greens. It acknowledged that Australia’s cooked market was “leading to increasing numbers of households choosing to rent on a long-term and in some cases, a permanent basis” and called on the government to improve tenancy laws.

The Greens spokesperson for housing, Senator Lee Rhiannon, said that “Taking an axe to the only federal funding stream for homelessness and public housing services is about as callous as it gets.  Without any alternate plans in place, the Turnbull government has delivered a brutal blow to the housing and homelessness sector.”

Meanwhile Labor kicked off the parliamentary meeting by calling on the government to reform negative gearing and tax concessions that favour property investors over first home buyers.

Politics can be a negative and depressing zone all round, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that when it comes to affordable housing there are big policy differences between political parties.