Media Release by The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Tackling the challenges of housing affordability and homelessness

The Gillard Government is continuing to deliver record investments in affordable housing and solutions to address homelessness totalling more than $3.6 billion in the budget for 2012–13.

Almost $1.2 billion will be provided by the Gillard Government to the states and territories under the National Affordable Housing Special Purpose Payment, and a further $156.5 million through the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness in 2012–13 alone, and a total of $538.6 million over five years since 2009.

Funding is also continuing for the Building Better Regional Cities program, National Rental Affordability Scheme, Housing Affordability Fund, youth homelessness services and research.

Protecting the living standards of Australian families has been a key priority of the Gillard Government from day one, and these important measures reflect that commitment.

Improving housing affordability

Australia has a strong economy, but we know we are facing some challenging times, particularly in relation to ensuring all Australians have an affordable place to call home, now and into the future.

The Labor Government has made affordable housing a top priority and will continue to work with State and Territory governments to deliver housing assistance to low and middle income Australians.

The Building Better Regional Cities program will help ease cost of living pressures for Australians in regional areas by making available around $100 million over three years to help improve the cost of new housing developments.

Under the program, councils will be assisted with the cost of providing infrastructure, such as parks and community centres, upgrades or extensions to drains and sewers, and connecting roads and bridges.

This will bring forward the supply of affordable housing in our regional cities, which are experiencing positive jobs and population growth, relieving the pressure on our capital cities so that Australia can grow sustainably.

The Gillard Government is continuing to invest in the Housing Affordability Fund with around  $100 million for the final funding year to help more Australians realise their dream of owning their own home.

This funding will help reduce housing-related infrastructure and planning costs, such as the laying of water pipes, sewerage, transport and the creation of parks, with the savings passed on to new home owners.

Through the National Rental Affordability Scheme, we are building more affordable private rental housing, as well as encouraging private investment in innovative affordable housing and reducing rental costs for low and moderate income households.

As part of this year’s Federal Budget, we will continue to support the $4.5 billion National Rental Affordability Scheme, delivering 50,000 new rental homes across Australia by 2016.

To date, we have delivered nearly 8000 new homes across Australia through the Scheme to be rented to low and moderate income earners, including essential service workers such as childcare workers, nurses, police officers and fire-fighters, at reduced market rates.

In addition, the Gillard Government will continue to help low and middle income earners with the costs of renting through the Commonwealth Rent Assistance program, and expects to provide more than $3 billion in Rent Assistance in 2012–2013.

A plan to tackle homelessness

In 2008, the Government set out an ambitious plan to tackle homelessness and give our most vulnerable Australians access to accommodation and support services.

Without a secure home, people struggle to find and keep jobs, stay in training or education, or to keep their kids in school.

That’s why we have made homelessness a national reform priority and have committed to halving the overall rate of homelessness by 2020.

We have invested an unprecedented $5 billion in additional funding in homelessness since 2008.

We are continuing our support for housing assistance and homelessness prevention services, Reconnect and Household Organisation Management Expenses (HOME) Advice, as well as investing in research to gain a better understanding and improve the evidence base on homelessness.

More than 100 Reconnect services across Australia are providing counselling, mediation and practical support for young people aged 12 to 18 years and their families.

Our HOME Advice intervention program will continue to assist families at risk of homelessness to manage their finances and household expenses in order to prevent future accommodation crisis.

In addition, we will continue funding Journeys Home – the Longitudinal Study of Factors Affecting Housing Stability, along with the work of our critical research partners under the National Homelessness Research Agenda and, with states and territories, the work of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and its net