Future Fund needed to Address Housing Crisis in Greater Western Sydney

Belinda Wallis •
May 30, 2023

The Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue is calling on Prime Minster Anthony Albanese to personally lean into Senate negotiations to pass the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) Bill to help address the spiralling housing crisis in Greater Western Sydney.

Christopher Brown AM, Chairman of the leading think-tank the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue, said historically high levels of housing stress and rising rents were pushing some of the region’s most vulnerable people into the risk of homelessness, and called on the Prime Minister to forge a consensus to get the Government’s housing reform package over the line. 

“The Prime Minister has unmatched parliamentary negotiation experience, lived experience and
authority step in to get a swift resolution to this impasse,” Mr Brown said.

“It’s critical that this legislation passes so we can get on with the urgent task of delivering new social
and affordable housing supply as soon as possible.

“Housing Minister Julie Collins has strongly represented the Government’s view, but in the face of
opposition intransigence and cross bench ambiguity, we believe it’s important the Prime Minister takes an even greater role in negotiations.

“While housing stress is not limited to Greater Western Sydney, the region has always and will continue to take on a disproportionate burden when it comes to population growth. We are looking down the barrel of a post-pandemic population boom, which will squeeze housing affordability even further.”

While the Dialogue is calling for the PM to help drive the legislation, as part of the negotiation, we
would encourage the Government to consider how it can move forward negotiations and bring
together public and private funding to address this critical housing issue in Western Sydney.

“Sadly, since the HAFF was conceived by the then-Labor Opposition around two years ago, the
housing crisis has deteriorated to a point where housing stress is endemic in the West – and is only
worsening with each month that passes without decisive action in this space. With the rapid return to pre-pandemic levels of both population growth and international tourism, conditions look likely to
worsen for many communities,” Mr Brown said.

The Dialogue believes crossbench demands for new direct funding in response to the housing crisis
are in line with community expectations, and that caveats are needed on new direct funding to
maximise the delivery of new supply for every federal dollar spent, by preferencing partnerships with the community housing sector and private finance.

The scale of the housing crisis should also trigger a reconsideration of the limited investment in the HAFF and removal of the cap on annual disbursements from the fund.

“Sensible, practical amendments have to be on the table, and we’d like to see the Government and the Greens come to an agreement that is in the interests of our region. We can’t, again, let the perfect be the enemy of the good and make housing policy the latest partisan lightning rod.

When the crossbench couldn’t pass climate reforms in 2009, the country and the planet suffered unnecessarily for more than a decade. It is a cautionary tale for the current Senate,” Mr Brown said.

“The HAFF is not the only answer, but it provides a solid, sustainable foundation of ongoing funding
that is independent of the Commonwealth Budget.

“It needs to be realised so it can become a permanent fixture for the local housing sector, for state
housing agencies and the growing pool of global private capital and local super funds wanting to
invest in affordable housing projects in Western Sydney.

“The community, and history, will judge him kindly for spending a little more on this issue at this time.”

If policy compromise is needed to ensure quick passage of this legislation, the Dialogue would urge
consideration of the following:

• The Government commits to increasing the total investment in HAFF in future Budgets
following the funding of the first 30,000 homes
• Removal of the $500m cap on annual disbursements from the HAFF
• Provision of $2b per year in grant funding over the next four years for the delivery of new
social and affordable housing in partnership with the community housing sector
• Measures to ensure new direct funding is linked directly to new housing supply
• Use of community housing providers as managers of new affordable housing facilities.

“Australia’s social and affordable housing stock is critically stressed, and in desperate need of
immediate and significant funding and attention. At the end of the day, the overwhelmingly important issue is passage of the HAFF,” Mr Brown said.

“Delays to passing the legislation only adds to the length of time that stretches between now and
affordable, appropriate housing for those who need it. Greater Western Sydney is particularly feeling
the pinch.

“We are expecting a massive influx of migrants to Australia this year and in the years ahead as we
emerge from the pandemic and GWS, as it has in the past, will invariably carry the load for the nation
on population growth. Without a massive boost to social and affordable housing, the progress and
prosperity of the region will come under serious threat.”