Update on housing and homeless initiatives

06 September 2018

I wanted to provide an update on the work that has been happening in the lead-up to a new housing strategy. This includes some of the early actions that were announced at the Summit and initiatives that were funded out of this year’s budget to provide more support for people experiencing homelessness and assist with housing affordability.

At last year’s Summit, I announced some early actions for the strategy to make it easier for people to buy a home and increase the supply of affordable housing in the ACT. Here is an update on those actions:

• There are now two years’ worth of land release with new targets for affordable, community and public housing. This mean that 1,082 dwellings have been set aside for affordable and social housing from the 2017-18 and 2018-19 land release programs.
• The affordable home purchase database is continuing to collect interest from eligible Canberrans about purchasing affordable homes. As of 2 July 2018, 722 people have registered interest for houses across five suburbs.
• The innovation fund has completed the EOI process for Year 1 proposals.
o Community Housing Canberra will run an affordable rental initiative to encourage more landlords to provide their rental properties at an affordable rate.
o Two co-housing projects will receive funding that can provide more affordable housing options. ECHO housing and Smart Urban Village were the successful applicants.
• Year 2 of the innovation fund will focus on a number of affordable housing proposals, including options for specialist disability accommodation and families escaping family violence and we’re working on developing program guidelines to be able to call for Expressions of Interest later in 2018.

ACT Budget
A major feature of this year’s budget was abolition of stamp duty for eligible first home buyers which has removed an added cost for Canberrans trying to purchase their own home. Coupled with the removal of the first home buyer’s grant, which has been shown to have an inflationary impact on house prices, this is a nation-leading change to address housing affordability for home purchase.

The ACT has also increased the supply of land for housing over the indicative land release program. This current 4-year program will see 17,000 residential dwelling sites made available for development, going well above the demand for housing sites over the near future.

Here are quick rundown of other initiatives funded in this year’s budget that go to address the outcomes of the strategy that will be implemented over the next year.
• Building more long-term supported mental health accommodation in partnership with ACT Health. ($10.659m) and $200k for early work and design planning for additional supported mental-health accommodation (i.e. MyHome)
• More support for frontline homeless services as well as the expansion of OneLink operating hours ($6.524m). This is on top of existing funding for our frontline homelessness services of approximately $20m a year.
• An expanded energy efficiency improvement program for public housing tenants which will upgrade heating and cooling for 2,200 tenants with inefficient systems. ($5.713m)
• A second culturally appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older persons complex, working closely with the Elected Body on its development ($4.488m)
• $250k for planning and design for Common Ground 2 in Dickson, building on the success on Common Ground 1 in Gungahlin.
• A significant upgrade and digitisation for Housing ACT systems, which will see more interactions happen quicker online and 24/7 ($1.466m).

National Housing and Homelessness Agreement
The new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) has come into effect, replacing the National Affordable Housing Agreement and National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. While the funding commitment is welcome to allow existing homelessness support services to continue, the altered scope of the Agreement without an increase in funding has been my main concern. I will continue to advocate that the Commonwealth needs to commit more resources to provide funding certainty right across the housing spectrum, use its policy levers to influence improved affordability, address the social and economic drivers of homelessness and develop a national housing strategy.

The new ACT housing strategy will be released later this year. Guided by what we heard from you during the extensive consultation process last year and at the Summit, the new housing strategy will focus on assisting those who need it most.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in contributing to the development of the new housing strategy and I look forward to releasing the strategy later this year.