The Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) has backed Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, which calls for all levels of government to invest in social and affordable rental housing.

CHIA believes the plan is ‘well-maintained and designed social housing provides many community benefits, supporting individual and societal wellbeing and productivity, and reducing costs in health and justice services’ and recommends the design and implementation of programs to increase supply’. 

CHIA CEO, Wendy Hayhurst, says Infrastructure Australia is worthy of praise for its creation of the plan, which aims to outline the positive impacts of social housing.

“Infrastructure Australia is to be commended for the focus on social infrastructure in this plan. Too often Australian governments have viewed social and affordable rental housing investment solely as an impost and overlooked its positive impacts, not just for the individual who gets a home but for other service budgets,” she says. 

“Only last week, for example the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) published research showing that helping ex-prisoners through social housing typically cuts re-offending and saves the taxpayer thousands of dollars.”

Hayhurst was quick to point out the decline in social housing that falls well below international standards.

“Social housing as a proportion of Australia’s total dwellings has steadily declined to 4.2%, way below the OECD country average of 7.1%,” she says. 

“Australia needs to be adding at least 20,000 social and affordable rental homes every year. That is do-able but it needs the Federal Government as an active participant too; they’re the ones with the fiscal fire power.”

“Coming hard on the heels of the recent OECD endorsement for social housing investment, these new recommendations are especially powerful. Here we have two highly respected economic planning bodies both supporting the case that adequate social rental provision is a vital part of a balanced housing system. By all means let’s look at how to make the market work more smoothly, but that will never provide an affordable solution for the lowest income Australians”.

Andrew Hannan, CHIA’s Chair, says Infrastructure Australia’s engagement with stakeholders during the production of the plan was key to its findings. 

“We’re delighted to see the community housing sector recognised in the Plan as being key to delivering new social and affordable rental homes for Australians locked out of the private rental market, or home ownership. Our members have demonstrated the capability, capacity and financial sophistication to deliver thousands of additional dwellings in recent years. But an ongoing national funding program that brings certainty and attracts the big institutional investors is needed,” he says.  

Hannan says that CHIA’s Pre-Budget Submission had proposed a cost-effective funding model that leveraged the existing NHFIC arrangements, and could make a major dent in Australia’s social and affordable housing shortage. 

“The Federal Government has recently launched an Inquiry on Housing Affordability and Supply. The committee must put the undersupply of social and affordable rental housing front and centre of their deliberations. Social and affordable rental housing can be a haven for women escaping violence, provide stability to help people recover from illness and act as a springboard into homeownership. The community housing industry is ready to lead in delivering the national program Australia badly needs.”

To read the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan in full, click here.