Australia Today

Can Anthony Albanese Fix Australia’s Housing Crisis?

“Pre-election, [Labor] announced some sound long-term policies. But we need urgent action now.”
Caravan park in Australia
Photo by Jenny Evans / Getty Images

The Australian government is facing renewed pressure from housing advocates and the crossbench to rethink its federal housing policy platform and take “urgent” short-term action, as the nation’s housing crisis continues to leave families without shelter.

The calls came on Monday ahead of a speech due to be given by housing minister, Julie Collins, to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, where she was expected to urge Australians to get behind the government’s efforts to build more affordable housing around the country. 


Reports of Australia’s housing crisis grow more stark by the day. The outskirts of major cities around the country are now laden with tents, where young families have had no choice but to brave the elements of an unrelenting winter with nothing but a layer of polyester to protect them. In far-north Queensland, the emergency housing shortage is so acute that welfare agencies begun handing out tents to those unable to find shelter. 

Elsewhere, Australians are living in their cars, and consider themselves lucky, while others have found themselves living week-to-week in caravan parks, paying metropolitan rents, and consider themselves luckier still. 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the wait list for those seeking social housing grew by 8,000 households last year, up from 155,141 to 163,508, while the latest available census figures from 2016 counted more than 116,000 Australians were experiencing homelessness.

As it stands, the government has committed to spend $10 billion on 20,000 new social housing properties across the country over the next five years, along with 10,000 affordable homes for frontline workers, like police, nurses and cleaners, who have for the most part been priced out of the areas where they work.


Even still, that would leave more than 130,000 Australians in the lurch.

In her remarks, Collins said “real leadership” on the issue will require a shift in the way the conversation about those who face housing stress is framed. But community housing providers and social housing advocates say there’s more the government could be doing to make up for the outsized gap left by its policy platform.

One of them is Michele Adair, who heads up one of the largest community housing providers in New South Wales, Housing Trust, and serves as chair of the peak body for community housing in the state. 

“Pre-election, [Labor] announced some sound long term policies. But we need urgent action now, as the crisis in regional communities is getting worse by the month with no relief in sight,” Adair told VICE.

Adair said the government needs to set “meaningful national targets” when it comes to housing supply. In her mind, that ends with setting a floor of building at least 15,000 new homes a year, while forcing state and territory governments to match them, and build 15,000 homes of their own. 

In the short term, she says the government needs to consider working with community housing providers to get moving on “shovel-ready” projects to boost housing supply, and extend the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), which offers incentives to organisations that offer low-income workers housing at reduced rates.


The NRAS was introduced in 2008, but is due to expire in 2026. When it eventually winds down, Adair says more than 27,400 households will be tossed to the whims of the private market. Many of them, she said, simply wouldn’t be able to afford it. 

After the Reserve Bank of Australia increased the interest rate for the fourth month in a row last week, up 50 basis points to 1.85 percent, matters are only expected to worsen for low-income renters, as landlords start to pass the increase on to tenants. 

“Renters represent a growing cohort. Once a route to homeownership, private rental is now a tenure destination,” said Dr Megan Nethercote, a senior research fellow at RMIT, last week. 

“Renters deserve homes that are affordable, provide adequate security of tenure, are well-maintained and have appropriate provisions for tenant representation. Meeting these needs requires strong national leadership on housing; they warrant serious deliberation within a new national housing agenda.”

Australia’s housing crisis was thrust back into the fold of federal politics last Wednesday, when Collins first tried to drum up enthusiasm about the Albanese government’s leadership intentions on driving a “really serious housing affordability challenge”. 


The signal was followed up during Question Time in the house of representatives later that day by Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather, who pointed to the tens of thousands of Australians experiencing housing stress left exposed by a policy that caters to less than a third of them.

After Collins’ remarks on Monday, Chandler-Mather told VICE the Greens want to see a “comprehensive plan to ensure every single household” left unaccounted for by the government is ensured shelter.

“It is remarkable that Labor’s policy is only a fraction of even the sector’s modest demands for social housing, and a sign of just how deeply unambitious Labor’s 4,000 social homes a year is,” Chandler-Mather said. 

Like Adair, Chandler-Mather said that, away from supply, the government could be doing far more to protect Australians from homelessness, and ease some of the pressures being felt in the private market. 

“Once you take into account people living in severe housing stress, then the actual need for social and affordable housing is over 600,000 homes,” Chandler-Mather said. 

“The Federal Labor Government plans on spending $224 billion over 10 years on the Stage 3 tax cuts, but only $10 billion on building social and affordable housing, which is a real kick in the teeth for the hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of a home.”

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