The National Housing Forum key takeaways
Access to the Australian housing market has been on the decline, even before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses and caused major economic downshifts in the country and the rest of the world.
According to experts, faulty policymaking has led to an almost feverish competition and substantial supply shortages, making it ever harder for first-time home buyers in lower economic quartiles to purchase their first property.
It’s also impossible to discount the effect of COVID-19 on people’s lives. From causing skyrocketing property prices to widening economic gaps, the pandemic has indeed left its mark across Australia.
While most of Australia already appears to be recovering from the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still has a long way to go if it is to stave off some of the harshest effects on the economy and the population. This is especially true in terms of ensuring people have a roof over their heads.
It is in this scenario that the National Housing Forum takes place. For three days, more than 20 experts from the financial sector, real estate business, the government, and not-for-profits gathered to exchange views and give us a better understanding of what needs to be done to solve the housing crisis.
Among the speakers coming from the government is An Nguyen, Executive Director of Infrastructure Delivery from the Victoria Department of Treasury and Finance presented the Victorian government’s public housing strategy. Nguyen talked about Victoria’s Big Housing Build, an ambitious plan to meet Victoria’s unmet housing needs and create a sustainable and strong social housing sector with its stakeholders.
“A dedicated entity, Homes Victoria was established from existing directive housing by the Victorian government to implement a range of significant reforms including managing the Big Housing Build, in addition to overseeing the management of Victoria’s existing $26B in housing assets,” Nguyen said.
Paulo Macchia, government Architect for New South Wales talked about NSW’s housing objectives and strategies. Macchia also zeroed in on their work with the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, a statutory body under the portfolio and direction of the Minister for Family and Community Services.
Meanwhile, Adrian Kelly of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) discussed the current state of the housing market, particularly the shortfall of supply for sales and rentals. Kelly highlighted that because of a combined factors such as migration, population growth, and even COVID-19, thousands of listings on affordable dwellings often get sold out overnight, making the market “burning”.
Kelly called for government planning that addresses population growth and marketing changes, instead of relying on stimulus programs.
“As we’ve seen, stimulus programs for various reasons, have unintended consequences,” he said.
It would be remiss to discuss the condition of housing market without discussing homelessness. Aboriginal and Torres-strait Islanders, which are heavily affected by homelessness are still experiencing extreme difficulties, particularly in securing a roof over their heads.
Sandra Harben of Noongar Mia Mia, underscored how many social housing programs, while well-meaning are unsuccessful because they were not culturally appropriate.
Harben said many Aboriginal people are forced to fit in criteria that are unnatural to their way of living, which only serves to block them from accessing programs meant to serve them.
Harben specified the problem of overcrowding, which is one of the most common reasons why Aboriginal people can’t get qualified for housing. Harben said that the idea of a nuclear family unit is not the norm for their people, and as such should be considered when planning for housing facilities.
“There’s still institutional racism when it comes to our mob accessing houses, whether it’s in the private rental market or in the public market. Every human being has a right to a home, and getting a home isn’t about winning a prize. There shouldn’t be any barriers, there shouldn’t be any criteria,” Harben said.
Addressing the problems that the housing sector faces is doubtlessly a complex undertaking that will require cooperation among many sectors for a long time. However, as long as these different sectors continue to converse, then the goal of giving every Australian a home should be not too far off.