Australia backs doing far more to ensure that people have decent housing they can afford

Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty: Public housing towers

Contributed by Joe Montero

The ack of affordable housing has been heating up as a huge political issue, and the lates Guardian Essential poll confirms how far the support for more far-reaching solutions has gone. There is a warning here for the federal and state governments. If they don’t lift their game, they are going to be held accountable for their failure.

One poll doesn’t tell the whole story. But tends to be a good indicator by providing a glimpse into how people are feeling at a given time.

There is strong support for the approach and measures proposed by the Greens. This includes the setting up of a Department of Sustainable Cities, Development and Housing. And they have called for the building of 360,000 new affordable rental homes in the next five years and 610,000 over the decade, The greens want a cap on rent increases in the private market.

It doesn’t stop here. A move to raise a call for the doubling of social housing in Victoria. Led by internal group Labor for Housing, will feature at the party’s May state conference. This is a good indicator of the sentiment growing within Labor, and it’s not confined to Victoria.

An important part of this is anger at the ongoing destruction of public housing. There is rising angst in Victoria that in the state government’s plan to redevelop existing housing estates, only 11,000 will be public housing tenants out of a total of 30,000. This is means that there will be only a 10 percent increase in public housing residencies. Which will do little to address the massive waiting list. State governments around the nation are behaving in a similar way.

Some 56 percent of poll respondents want the stock of public housing increased, and 68 percent support housing policy that provides not-for-profit housing. This means support for a range of options that provide low cost housing.

Meanwhile, about 1000 residents are meanwhile waging a class action in the court over a claim that their huma rights have not been considered in the development of towers in Carlton, Flemington, and North Melbourne. This is but one of many actions in a long running campaign to save public housing.

The state of public housing is even worse in NSW, since the various recent governments have gone further to decrease the stock.

In fact, the right to adequate and affordable housing is contained within the Universal declaration of Human Rights to which Australia is a signatory. There is growing support for including this in our constitution, or at least as legislation in our parliaments. The poll revealed that 73 percent of respondents agree.

Ultimately, it will be the quantity of affordable housing that is most important. If the objective is to tackle the reality of the existing housing crisis, it must be on a scale to be effective. Providing low rent housing for the poorest in our community is important but insufficient. Relieving the housing stress of that much wider band, including those in insecure work, and those suffering serious mortgage stress also need affordable housing alternatives.

Without this broader approach, there will be no end to the housing crisis.

Perhaps this broader based housing stress lies behind some level of support for the use of superannuation to finance the cost of purchasing a home being promote by the Coalition. There is no evidence that this will help. In any case, this will mostly favour the wealthier, who have access to more super money. But it does sound like relief for those in trouble.

Interestingly, 51 percent want a crackdown of negative gearing and capital gains concessions, despite being poorly understood. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests they are crucial factors behind upward spiralling property prices. Many obviously sense he truth of this.

The big kick is that around half of the respondents feel that governments at all levels are doing a poor job on housing.

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