Last night, the Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers handed down the Albanese Government’s second Budget – its first real Budget after last October’s ‘mini-budget’. While the Budget contained some promising initiatives which help improve cost of living and access to health services, measures to address the housing and homelessness crisis were noticeably absent.
What did the Budget contain for Homelessness Services?
The Budget papers confirmed that the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA) will be extended for a year while a new agreement is developed with the States and Territories. However, in disappointing news, there was no change to the rate of indexation that continues to significantly lag the true cost of delivering services. The Government have changed the rate of indexation for Commonwealth homelessness services (and other social programs) so there is hope that the new NHHA will address this key funding issue when it is renegotiated. The Budget papers also include the one-year $67.5 million payment relating to the Equal Remuneration Order.
What did the Budget contain for social and affordable housing?
The Budget has not made the supply of social and affordable housing a priority at the scale needed to address growing homelessness. We recognise the Government has moved to support housing supply through the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) and associated legislation currently before the Senate. Homelessness NSW supports the HAFF but notes that $2.5 billion over 5 years (assuming the maximum $500 million withdrawal from the $10 billion fund each year) is not sufficient to address the atrophying social housing stock across the country. Doubling the size of the fund and requiring matched funding from State and Territory Governments would be a welcomed improvement. You can read more of our ideas about how to strengthen the Fund here.
There were a few callouts in the 2023-24 Budget relating to social and affordable housing:
What broader measures were in the Budget that impact the system?
At Homelessness NSW we take a whole of system response to ending homelessness. This means looking beyond the immediate service delivery ecosystem of housing and homelessness and positioning homelessness within the broader system that impacts it. From this lens, the Budget contained some positive steps:
Where does this leave us?
Overall, this budget tinkered around the edges of a growing social crisis. While the Government has made steps to address housing and homelessness through the HAFF and minor additions through the Budget, much more needs to be done to dramatically increase social housing supply and support the most vulnerable in our society.
Homelessness NSW will continue to work with the Albanese Government to develop policies and investment measures that help people have a safe place to call home and the support to keep it. This will require ongoing and sustained investment in social and supported housing at scale, increased and sustainable funding pathway for homelessness services and greater reforms to lift people out of poverty.