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Housing and Homelessness missing from the 2023-24 Budget

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:

  • $300 million over 4 years to support upgrades to social housing that save energy (to be delivered in collaboration with States and Territories)
  • $30 million over 5 years to incentivise more build-to-rent developments through tax changes (budget papers forecasting supply released from 2024-25). The measure will apply to build-to-rent projects consisting of 50 or more dwellings made available to rent to the public and retained under single ownership for at least 10 years. It is implied that this will target affordable housing however there is no mechanism called out in the budget papers to enable this.
  • Increasing the Government guaranteed liability cap of the National Housing and Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC) by $2 billion to $7.5 billion, meaning they are able to offer more loans.
  • Enabling up to 3 additional members to be appointed to the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council to provide greater breath of policy expertise. HNSW’s submission of the National Housing Supply Council recommended that the Council be expanded to include First Nations voices and people with lived experience of homelessness and we hope the Government fill these 3 additional positions in line with those recommendations.

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:

  • $40 per fortnight increase to JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Austudy, ABSTUDY, Disability Support Pension (Youth) and Special Benefit. This increase commences on September 2023
  • Maximum of $31 fortnightly increase in Commonwealth Rent assistance through increasing the maximum rate of the CRA payment 15% from 20 September.
  • $177 per fortnight increase for those eligible for the single parent payment by increasing the age of the youngest child from 8 to 14
  • $556.2 million over 5 years for 22/23 in investments to mental health and suicide prevention
  • $100m over 5 years from 2024–25 to establish a social impact investment
  • Outcomes Fund to make contractual payments to states, territories and service
  • providers based on delivering agreed, measurable outcomes through specific projects. Impact investing has successfully delivered Youth Foyers in the past and our hope is that more diverse housing solutions like additional Youth Foyers can be funded via the Outcomes Fund.
  • $732.9 million over 4 years from 2023/24 to support participant outcomes and the effective sustainable operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

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.

Other News

Australian and NSW Governments must prioritise housing and homelessness services in next budget

April 24, 2024

To date, indexation rates and other funding avenues have been woefully inadequate in covering the real costs of delivering vital homelessness services and, as such, services are being forced to do more with less. So, what needs to happen?

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