Another political housing agreement between the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments came into force this month. The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement is the latest in a 73-year series of such intergovernmental pacts to ensure affordable housing for citizens and to fund services for the homeless. As a result, there is less federal funding for new social and affordable housing than at any time in the past decade. Yet, at a time of population growth and persistent housing shortages, the Commonwealth`s recent budget promise to maintain its current AUD 1.3 billion contribution to the housing agreement means that there has been no increase in real funding. It is not enough to cover, let alone increase, the costs of current services. Read more: Australia needs to reinvigorate affordable housing, not abolish it. It replaces the 10-year national housing agreement and a series of partnerships since 2008 to combat homelessness – the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. The most recent agreement presents more achievable performance indicators than their predecessors. It also requires states to report on their annual financial contributions, a worthy step forward for transparency. First, the political breadth. Unlike its predecessors, the new agreement aims to improve access to housing «on the whole range of housing.» This applies to the entire range of residential real estate, from the construction of homes in crisis to the home. Within this spectrum, the Commonwealth has set several immediate priorities: although there are positive directions in the new agreement, the need for funding remains a problem.
Although funding is not increased, the Commonwealth hopes that states and territories will increase their resources. Read more: A National Affordable Housing Strategy: Necessary, Accessible and Perhaps on the Road So there is a gap between the high goal of improving access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing and the funding it can support. Until this funding gap is filled, all new national housing and homelessness agreements will remain essentially different in its name. Read also: Homeless people will continue to rise until governments change course within the Housing Authority. Those published so far are very different in terms of ambition and specificity. A third feature is the requirement for states and territories to publish housing strategies each year. Stakeholders will be able to assess and compare the merits of these published projects. These will follow a new round of high-level bilateral agreements negotiated between each state and territory and the Commonwealth. Read also: We will not fill this gap if the Commonwealth reduces support for Aboriginal housing.
So much more detail about the apparent lack of funding needed to meet Australia`s housing needs, we can unfortunately predict that the new agreement will not help at all increase the supply of social and affordable housing. Indeed, this is tacitly acknowledged – the carefully crafted performance indicators of the agreement do not contain such a measure. The second and arguably the largest set of amendments is accountability. These include an expanded list of performance criteria, the Commonwealth, which adopts a standardized approach to data measurements, and a formal independent review of the agreement by the Productivity Commission, which will be implemented within four years.