The peak community housing body in New South Wales has called out the Prime Minister’s claims about Commonwealth investment in housing while on the campaign trail this week.
Scott Morrison visited the marginal, Labor-held seat of Gilmore on the state’s south coast on Monday where housing prices have risen more than anywhere else in the country over the past 12 months.
In a response to a question on housing affordability, Mr Morrison said the government was supporting the housing sector through the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC), an agency he set up as treasurer in 2018.
“What we did was, is we borrowed money at incredibly low rates so we could loan that money to local community housing associations to help them develop affordable accommodation,” he told reporters.
“And we’ve put $2 billion extra into that loan fund to ensure that could be done, supporting the investments which are made by state governments.”
Community Housing Industry Association chair and Illawarra Housing Trust chief executive Michele Adair said it was private corporations who loaned money to community housing providers, not the government.
“The Prime Minister is factually incorrect,” Ms Adair said.
“What happens is the federal government provides a bank guarantee, effectively they underwrite [loans] … the government’s risk exposure is extremely low.
“I’m astounded that a scheme he actually did indeed create, which has been wonderful, he doesn’t seem to understand the way it works.”
Housing initiatives often just ‘bandaids’
Mr Morrison also defended his home builder and home guarantee schemes saying they helped get more than 300,000 Australians into a home.
But Ms Adair labelled the initiatives “bandaids” that exacerbated the housing crisis by pushing up prices without addressing supply.
“People who have bought just in Gilmore in the last year, the average price to purchase a home there has gone up by about $350,000, which has added 10 years to the mortgage repayments,” she said.
“It was only in February, the government point blank refused to even prepare and commit to any timeline for the development of a national housing strategy.
“So, these things we get from the government from time to time are nothing other than bandaids that are not well-founded in research or evidence,” she said.
The Assistant Treasurer and Housing Minister, Michael Sukkar disagreed with Ms Adair and said the NHFIC had supported 15,000 homes.
“By providing an additional $2 billion in low-cost financing in this year’s Budget, a total of 27,500 homes will be supported by NHFIC,” Mr Sukkar said.
“Combined with the Morrison government’s $1 billion housing-enabling infrastructure facility supporting the supply of 6,900 new dwellings, almost 35,000 social, affordable and market dwellings will be delivered by the Morrison Government.
“It is incredibly disappointing that a community housing representative has deliberately misconstrued how NHFIC works.
“Ms Adair unfortunately is the one who is factually incorrect,” Mr Sukkar said.
‘Rejection after rejection’
But Kayla Dawson echoed similar concerns about housing, after searching for a home for herself and her two children in Gilmore since fleeing from domestic violence.
After a month of living in hotel rooms and short-term social housing, she said she was no closer to putting a roof over her family.
“It is rejection after rejection after rejection,” Ms Dawson said.
“I was just at a [real estate] agency which has 19 properties and over 40 applicants for each property.
“We need more help, our kids can’t be on the streets anymore,” she said.
Labor has committed to setting up a $10 billion housing fund to build 20,000 new social housing projects including 4,000 homes for women fleeing domestic violence.
The ABC is seeking comment from the government.