Housing Ministers’ Conference Communique
Housing Ministers met today to progress the significant reform agenda in the delivery of social and affordable housing in Australia.
Ministers reported back on progress in the roll-out of the Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan, with a particular focus on specialist housing facilities funded through the Social Housing Initiative focused on tackling homelessness. Over 35,000 repairs and maintenance projects are already complete, and over 1,500 new homes are already under construction.
Ministers agreed to publish a one year progress report on implementation of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, to be released for the first anniversary of the Commonwealth Government’s White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home.
Ministers discussed the development of a quality framework for the support provided to the homeless, including moving towards a system of third party accreditation for homelessness services.
Ministers agreed to develop a public discussion paper on options for nationally consistent regulation and prudential supervision of not-for-profit housing providers. This will be developed in collaboration between the Commonwealth, States and Territories, community housing providers and stakeholders.
Ministers agreed on the importance of improving employment outcomes for public and social housing tenants, with a greater focus on working with local employers, support for social enterprises, and collaboration between Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.
State and Territory Ministers reported on progress in establishing integrated waiting lists for community and public housing agencies, creating a ‘single point of entry’ where applicants can register for housing assistance. Ministers confirmed their commitment to having integrated waiting lists in place by 2011.
Remote Indigenous Housing
Housing Ministers acknowledged the significant challenges involved in improving the quality and quantity of social housing stock for Indigenous citizens in remote Australia. Each jurisdiction reported on progress to date in implementing the relatively new National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing, and developing the necessary capital works and implementation plans.
Overall, progress has been mixed with substantial challenges facing a number of jurisdictions. Appropriate legislative arrangements to facilitate secure tenure remain an issue in some jurisdictions.
The Australian Government expressed serious concern at progress in some jurisdictions, especially given the centrality of housing to the Closing The Gap agenda, and outlined a number of actions it was taking to address the issues which had emerged.
Minister Macklin advised jurisdictions of the new organisational arrangements being established to provide closer oversight of the implementation of the National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing by the Australian Government including the deployment of senior Commonwealth officials with specific responsibilities for remote Indigenous Housing in each of the jurisdictions with significant allocation of funds.
Progress payments which will be linked to milestones under the National Partnership Agreement will be strictly administered. The Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services will take a strong interest in the delivery of housing under the National Partnership in the priority RSD locations.
Jurisdictions acknowledged the opportunity presented by the allocation of unprecedented resources under the NPA, totaling $5.5 billion over ten years, to meet the backlog in social housing provision for remote indigenous communities.
Jurisdictions also acknowledged the ambitious reform agenda involved, including in relation to concentrating effort and new construction in priority locations under the RSD strategy, the requirement for land tenure where construction occurs on aboriginal land, tenancy management, and indigenous employment.
Ministers committed to taking all steps necessary to ensure the timely and cost effective implementation of the National Partnership.
Housing Ministers also identified the need to strengthen efforts to increase access to private rental housing and home ownership for indigenous citizens, particularly in regional and urban settings. Ministers agreed to consider these issues at their next meeting in December 2009.