Housing commitments a ‘down payment’ on pressing need

Workers looking over housing plans
The Federal Budget provided some support to ease the housing crisis. | Photo: People Images (iStock)

More needs to be done to accelerate the response to the housing crisis, despite industry groups acknowledging some promising initiatives in last night’s Federal Budget.

Property Council of Australia Chief Executive Mike Zorbas said $1 billion in new money for last mile infrastructure to unlock new housing supply was only a down payment on the money needed to bridge the housing gap and better plan all aspects of our cities.

“To hit 1.2 million homes by 2029, we need to improve investment settings, incentivise housing approvals, further boost gold medal housing options including retirement living, purpose-built student accommodation and build-to-rent housing and bring more tradies in from overseas to complement domestic capacity,” he said.

Mr Zorbas said it was particularly pleasing the Treasurer used his Budget speech to draw focus to the importance of housing Australian students.

“We need more student accommodation and so we need the purpose-built student accommodation sector to partner with universities on housing delivery without delay,” he said.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said while the Budget recognised the importance of a holistic, cross-portfolio approach to solving the housing crisis and made some inroads it had fallen short of supporting the businesses required to deliver on those projects.

“To ensure the industry can build the 1.2 million new homes under the Housing Accord, Government Ministers must sing from the same hymn sheet and focus all efforts on boosting housing supply, Ms Wawn said.

“Building enough homes for Australians requires action beyond the housing portfolio and needs skills, migration, infrastructure, industrial relations, defence, social services, and industry portfolios to pull in the same direction.”

She said the extension of the instant asset write-off was welcome but fell short of much-needed support for the 440,000+ small businesses in the building and construction industry.

Ms Wawn said the industrial relations landscape continued to hold the industry back and stopped thousands of new homes from getting built.

“New industrial relations laws will see at least 15,000 fewer homes, almost 8000 fewer jobs and cost the economy over $113 billion over the next five years,” she said.

“The Budget missed an opportunity to provide adequate resources for the Fair Work Ombudsman to clean up the industry and stamp out unlawful union behaviour on construction sites.”

Ms Wawn welcomed funding to establish the Building Women’s Careers Program which will complement the work of Women Building Australia.

“Attracting more women in construction plays a critical role in making sure we can attract the half a million workers needed over the next five years.”

Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia Chief Executive Troy Williams said the Budget had some great investment to address workforce skills shortages, but missed the opportunity to put students at the heart of the skills training system.

Key budget measures included continued funding for the five-year National Skills Agreement between the Australian, state and territory governments. This is the primary vehicle that taxpayers use to support students get the skills they need in critical areas.

“The problem with this budget is that skills funding isn’t student-centred. It fails to empower students with the opportunity to study with the provider that’s best able to help them achieve their life and career goals, whether that’s an independent training provider or a public TAFE college,” Mr Williams said.