Remarks to the Community Housing Federation of Australia (CHFA) Housing and NDIS Forum
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Thank you very much Lucy and to all the participants here and the Federation for both hosting this forum and for inviting me to say some words this morning.
Can I also acknowledge Mr Bruce Bonyhady, Chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency Board (and indeed any other Board members present today).
Ladies and gentlemen, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a new way of providing community linking and individualised support for people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers.
As you know, the Scheme has been progressively rolled out since July last year through a number of trial sites across Australia.
As part of the individualised packages there will be some capacity to assist eligible participants with reasonable and necessary supports – including housing support as Lucy said earlier.
This might be in the form of home modifications, as a way of facilitating greater independence; or providing opportunities to innovate and create shared living arrangements, particularly where the housing needs are not specialised.
Whatever support available it is unlikely to be able to meet demand and the NDIS is not about to take over the responsibility of the housing sector or replace support provided by families.
The NDIS will complement and work with the housing sector and families to provide person-centred solutions for participants.
The NDIS does however have the potential to become the catalyst for the most transformative growth in disability housing in decades.
This can only be achieved through leverage and partnerships with governments, the housing sector, families, disability service providers, social finance and philanthropy – all of which are represented in this room today.
Ladies and gentlemen housing is important for everyone. The availability and affordability of decent housing close to jobs and services, is important for economic participation, labour mobility and family wellbeing – including for people living with disability.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) estimates that between 58,000 and 154,000 participants will seek independent accommodation as a result of the Scheme.
While we think the estimates are on the high side, we see three main sources for this increased demand:
- younger people in residential aged care;
- people in familial arrangements; and
- people in group homes and supported accommodation.
I’d like to acknowledge the support that many of you here today provide particularly for that last group that I just mentioned.
This includes 57,000 people currently living in social housing.
Under the current National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) our experience has been that there is no guarantee that an increase in funds would lead to an overall increase in supply.
One of the great things about the NDIS is that it will encourage a level of independence. The combined impact of housing and more independent living should not result in social isolation.
I am a strong believer in strong social networks. Social networks are an important part in the pathway for individuals. Social networks build social capital through connections between community organisations, businesses and individuals.
In the housing context, this means people need to have the opportunity to build productive relationships in their community, through schools and work and civil society.
In terms of public housing, this means we need to continue to move away from suburbs with a concentration of social housing and further encourage mixed tenancy developments.
In combination, social housing and the NDIS should help facilitate strong social networks.
Public housing has traditionally provided a safety net for those unable to afford or find affordable accommodation in the private sector. However state and territory housing authorities are currently unable to meet demand for affordable housing for all but the most disadvantaged tenants. This unmet need is evidenced by the almost 160,000 households in public waiting lists at 30 June 2013.
Community housing also provides housing for people on low and moderate incomes and households and individuals with special needs and provides a very valuable role in our community.
There has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of dwellings managed by community housing organisations since 2008. Under the NAHA, state and territory governments along with the Commonwealth committed to growing the community housing sector to a growth target of 35 per cent by 2014. At the moment, this is sitting around 16 per cent.
Although the Commonwealth recognises the advantages in growing the community housing sector it is important that state government decisions regarding stock transfers are not based on access to Commonwealth Rental Assistance (CRA) but on achieving the best outcomes in terms of an effective and efficient social housing system.
Ladies and gentlemen I want to turn now to the broader housing market.
The impacts of the housing shortfall are real. They affect people’s lives; people are renting for longer and making life decisions like family formation later; a lack of suitable housing makes peoples’ livelihoods uncertain and insecure.
Rising house prices mean that home ownership is now beyond the means of many young families, with rising rents putting pressure on low and moderate income households.
Rising rents are also having an impact on CRA – Government outlays are increasing but at the same time failing to address the significant levels of housing stress for those on income support payments.
There is currently a national housing problem in Australia.
Put simply, as a nation we do not build enough private dwellings for our growing population.
Since the mid-1980s, we have produced on average around 150,000 new private dwellings annually, decade after decade.
Over the same period, our nation’s population has grown by 44 per cent; that is, more than 7.1 million people.
And in the five years up to the 2011 Census, the average number of persons per dwelling was growing for the first time in this country in 100 years.
The fact is that there has been an absence of national leadership in driving a solution to the housing supply crisis that is looming.
The National Housing Supply Council estimated the national shortfall in housing stock in 2011 was 228,000 dwellings, almost one quarter of a million. Assuming historic demographic and supply trends continue, this gap will increase to nearly 370,000 dwellings by 2016, and 663,000 by 2031.
Fully accommodating this growth will require gross production of more than 180,000 new dwellings a year.
While I am encouraged by the recent growth in building approvals to around 180,000 over the past 12 months, there is more to be done.
Performance is variable across the states and you would have seen recent media coverage about overseas investment in Australian housing. At a minimum, this production rate needs to be maintained for several years to improve affordability in Australia.
We cannot ignore the impact of this on individual Australians and more broadly on our national economy.
States & Territories
Ladies and gentlemen a priority of mine is to simplify the relationship between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments. Primarily this relationship is cast by the National Affordability Housing Agreement (NAHA).
Whilst the NAHA has built into it objectives and strategies to grow the supply of dwellings across the whole market, it has failed to deliver against this objective. In fact, it’s hard to know exactly what the NAHA has achieved because the focus has largely been on public housing.
Funding provided by the Commonwealth is not tied to a specific purpose and the performance measures and reporting framework are such that we have no idea what the funding is being spent on and what outcomes are being achieved.
I am therefore committed to working with my state and territory counterparts to drive reform in this area.
I have long campaigned for greater transparency and accountability and I believe that it is past time to reform the National Agreement to incentivise performance. It should set benchmarks and performance measures and it should drive competition.
Ladies and gentlemen I want to see the entire housing market grow for all Australians.
We can only do this by working effectively across the public, private and community sectors.
Unless we do these things we face a looming social crisis in this country.
Thank you again for inviting me to this important forum and I wish you the best in your deliberations for the rest of the day. I look forward to receiving the communiqu? and other feedback from those deliberations which you will be developing.
And I look forward to engaging with you all again over the coming weeks and months.