Home is the foundation for our lives. None of us can raise a family, go to work, be part of our communities, or maintain our health and wellbeing without a stable and safe place to call home. Home is the basis for social, economic and cultural wellbeing.

Home is the foundation for our lives. None of us can raise a family, go to work, be part of our communities, or maintain our health and wellbeing without a stable and safe place to call home. Home is the basis for social, economic and cultural wellbeing. It is the obligation of our governments to guarantee that everyone can exercise this right to live in security, peace, and dignity, and have a place to call home.

Yet the skyrocketing cost of housing over the past decade or so, particularly in our major cities, is driving a growing number of low and modest income families into housing stress, homelessness and poverty. Soaring property prices have put the great Australian Dream out of reach of younger people and families, while the corresponding rental hikes have squeezed family budgets, forcing a growing number to the outer suburbs and fringes of our cities. The latest Household Expenditure Survey shows that almost two-thirds of low-income households in Australia experienced financial stress in 2015/16, with housing accounting for the largest weekly expense or 20% of all household spending.

People shouldn’t have to choose between paying the rent, keeping the electricity on and keeping food on the table for their kids. Millions more trying to fulfil this age old dream of owning a home through ever higher mortgages, have catapulted us to the status of second most indebted nation in the world, with average household debt now four times what it was 30 years ago. It has become obvious to everyone that the situation is unsustainable, with some experts warning of a catastrophic collapse of the housing market if we don’t act soon and put the right policy settings in place. We’ve heard the beginning of a national conversation over the past 12-24 months, and we have welcomed some of the positive steps taken in the 2016 Federal Budget to encourage private investment in affordable housing through the creation of a finance corporation and bond aggregator.

However, we urgently need new public investment in social housing and improved rent assistance for tenants. We don’t want to see families owing more on their homes or for more people to fall into housing stress through ever rising rents – this is a dangerous place to be if things go sour. It’s time to get ahead of this while we still can, and the answers are within reach. ACOSS and National Shelter recently released a six point National Housing Affordability Plan, setting out a comprehensive package of reforms that would deliver growth in social and affordable housing for people on low and modest incomes and take the heat out of the open housing market.

Ultimately, we believe the Federal Government will need to bite the bullet and reform the distorting tax treatment of housing which is one of the major drivers of ever rising property prices and growing financial risk. Some of the money saved from curtailing negative gearing and capital gains tax, which are predominantly benefiting people who are already comfortably housed or investing, could be used to stimulate housing construction and supply of the right kind. ACOSS, National Shelter and the community sector stand ready to work with Australian Governments on a comprehensive plan to address housing affordability.

Fundamental to any plan will be the need for bipartisanship to get the major parties to work together on reforming these tax breaks, as well as curb borrowing by self-managed super funds, and restore a national Housing Ministry to develop and deliver a national housing plan and strategy. The truth is that it will take more than a decade to repair the damage done by the two decades of unrestrained housing price speculation.

A long-term housing affordability plan led by a Commonwealth Housing Minister and backed by the States is vital. The solutions are out there. What’s missing is the political will to work together across party political lines and with the community to fix a growing problem that is affecting all of us, and harming the wellbeing of our families, communities and cities. Read more here: ACOSS-National Shelter housing plan.

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