News of national importance.

Media Release: Community housing industry association congratulates the re-elected coalition government

The Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) today congratulated the Coalition on being re-elected to govern Australia for the next three years.

“After a hard-fought campaign in which housing featured prominently, CHIA looks forward to working closely with the new Government to address Australia’s far-reaching housing affordability crisis. This critically affects not only aspiring first home owners, but also many low-waged working and vulnerable households doing it tough in often expensive and unsuitable private rental housing,” CHIA Chair Michael Lennon said today.

Mr Lennon acknowledged the work initiated by the last Coalition government’s Affordable Housing Working Group under then-Treasurer Morrison, and which led directly to the creation of the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC). He said ‘the NHFIC has already had an impact by enabling community housing organisations to refinance existing loans, with considerable resulting savings through lower interest charges.’ He also welcomed the Coalition’s election campaign announcement to use NHFIC to administer a government guarantee to support first home buyers.

Wendy Hayhurst, CHIA’s CEO added that the Coalition’s $25M pledge to research housing supply and demand via NHFIC was very much in tune with CHIA’s own proposals as published in the organisation’s 2018 National Housing Plan. She said ‘independently-produced analysis of the housing system augurs well for housing policy achieving more prominence in government decision making that, as essential social and economic infrastructure, it deserves.

UNSW research for the community housing industry and other partners – Strengthening Economic Cases for Housing: the Productivity Gains from Better Housing Outcomes – clearly demonstrates the gains to individuals, communities and the country in constructing well-located affordable housing. Ms Hayhurst said “the research demonstrates that the productivity ‘return’ from investing in affordable housing for those many households in rental stress can easily exceed the cost to government.”

CHIA also welcomes the creation of a dedicated Housing Minister, the Hon. Michael Sukkar, and an assistant minister for Community Housing and Homelessness, Luke Howarth MP. This week we have also seen the appointment of Jason Clare MP, Labor’s Shadow Housing and Homelessness spokesperson.

 

Contact: Wendy Hayhurst 0421 046 832

Joint Media Release: Community groups condemn mock rent increase notices and negative gearing scare tactics

Housing, homelessness and community peaks today condemned the use of mock rent increase notices as election material, which target people already living in rental stress.

The groups said that mock notices distributed to renters by the LNP are grossly misleading and likely to cause unnecessary anxiety amongst vulnerable renters.

ACOSS, National Shelter, the National Association of Tenant Orgnisations, Homelessness Australia and the Community Housing Industry Association after calling for an end to scare tactics around negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.

“We strongly condemn the use of mock rent increase notices which target people who already live in rental stress. Renters in Australia already face some of the weakest regulatory protections, from which landlords currently benefit. Many tenants have faced repeated rent hikes which cause deep financial stress,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

The Chair of the National Association of Tenants Organisations, Penny Carr, said:

“This kind of political tactic is irresponsible and deliberately designed to alarm renters, including many who are already deeply concerned about paying the rent every week or in fear of unfair evictions by their landlord.”

Shelter CEO Adrian Pisarski said the current tax concessions for housing investors have driven up house prices and rents and should be wound back.

“We have together advocated for reforms to housing tax concessions for more than a decade. These concessions overwhelmingly benefit higher income households, do nothing to increase the supply of housing and are unsustainable,” said Mr Pisarski.

“There is no evidence to suggest that rents would increase as a result of Labor’s proposed reforms. To the contrary, these changes are likely to reduce pressure on the housing market, improving affordability for both buyers and renters.

“Labor’s proposal will not apply to properties that are currently negatively geared, so existing investors will not be affected. Instead of scare campaigns we need to pursue a sensible reset of these concessions so that our housing system works for everyone.”

CEO of the Community Housing Industry Association, Wendy Hayhurst, said the property and real estate industries were lone voices in their opposition to reforming investor tax breaks.

“Two thirds of voters support government investment in social and affordable housing over negative gearing tax breaks for property investors,” Ms Hayhurst said.

“We need proper bipartisan support for policies that will address all pressure points in our housing system.”

Homeless Australia Chair Jenny Smith said that the campaign scare tactics would instil fear in people at risk of homelessness.

“The major parties should be offering hope to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in this Election, not creating fear. That means putting homes ahead of investment portfolios, making renting fairer for tenants, investing in more social and affordable housing for the 811,000 households struggling in the private rental market, and developing a national plan to end homelessness in Australia.”

“We appeal to all political parties and candidates in the last days of the Election campaign not to exploit the fears of vulnerable people with misleading scare tactics.”

 

ACOSS: 0419 626 155

National Shelter: 0417 975 270

Community Housing Industry Association: 0421 046 832

National Association of Tenant Organisations: 0418 747 921

Homelessness Australia: 0435 966 251

 

The Federal Parties’ Housing and Homelessness Platforms

The Federal Parties’ Housing and Homelessness Platforms

We are fast approaching the Federal election and so make no apologies for giving top billing to the Coalition, Green and Labor housing election platforms. While there has been a focus on the Labor (and the Greens) proposal to reform negative gearing, there has been far less prominence given in the news to some of the other initiatives to directly help people living in rental stress.

As we know work done by UNSW City Futures for CHIA NSW and Homelessness NSW shows that across Australia more than 700K new social rented homes are required by 2036 to meet both existing needs (the backlog) and plan for a growing number of households. Add a further 300K affordable rental homes for lower income workers priced out of homeownership – due to the cost of a deposit, and what are still very high prices compared to many people’s wages – and the case for urgent action is clear.

A shortage of affordable housing hurts individuals, communities and the Australian economy. Research commissioned by CHIA NSW for a consortium of organisations drawn from the public, private and not for profit sector demonstrated that Government investment where the market fails reaps rewards that benefit everybody.

In our table below, we have summarised in tabular form the elements of the Coalition, Labor and Greens housing and homelessness commitments in their published platforms, or gleaned from press releases. It was produced on 1 May and thus there may be further announcementsm, as not all the parties have outlined their positions.

In addition to the policies documented in the attached table, the Federal legislation that brings in changes to managed investment trusts (MITs) that could potentially incentivise investment in affordable housing was given assent just before the caretaker period and its provisions should come into effect from 1/7/19. Eligible foreign residents will generally be able to take advantage of a reduced withholding tax of 15 per cent on investment returns from affordable rental housing.

The Coalition also proposed to incentivise affordable housing investment through increasing the capital gains tax discount to 60% for homes that are rented as affordable for at least three years. This legislation has not (yet) received assent.

All the parties’ platforms have what we might consider a ‘gap,’ although in some cases it may simply be that they have not been explicit in stating what they will do.   We also recognise that housing policy is shared between the three levels of government and that in some cases  – say planning initiatives – a Federal government has few levers other than persuasion to influence whether inclusionary zoning is adopted and in other instances States could make contribution – say their surplus land, to provide the deeper subsidy that social housing needs to make its construction viable. The one ‘policy’ omission that could be federally driven is a comprehensive rent policy review. This more than just about increasing commonwealth rental assistance but setting and transitioning to a system that is affordable to tenants, at the same time as generating sufficient income to maintain and when necessary, upgrade homes.

2019 Party programs/commitments relevant to housing/homelessness

Policy Lib/National Coalition ALP Greens
Institutional reform (1). Appoint housing and homelessness minister. (2). Re-establish National Housing Supply Council with wider terms of reference
Tax reform – private rental investors LNP will ‘stop Labor’s Housing Tax’ (1). CGT discount to be halved to 25% for all new rental property purchases (2). Restrict negative gearing to newly-built rental property acquisitions. (3). All existing rental property ownership to be grandfathered. (4). SMSF direct borrowing for housing acquisition outlawed (1). CGT discount to be phased out over 5 years. (2). Negative gearing to be phased out over 5 years for those with 2+ properties. Investors with one property will be exempt (3) End negative gearing for all new rental property acquisitions
Tax reform – Build to Rent Re-balance tax treatment of large-scale institutional investment in (market) rental housing to remove disincentive for overseas investors
Empty properties Establish COAG process to co-ordinate/facilitate uniform vacant property tax across major cities
Renters rights Introduce national tenancy standards for all residential tenancies to protect tenants’ rights e.g. on eviction, unfair rent increases, repairs, property quality. National standard residential tenancy agreement incorporating (a) tenancy termination on specified grounds only; (b) restrictions on rent rises; (c) ruling out blanket bans for pet ownership; (d) dwelling safety and energy standards.
Facilitating private finance for affordable housing (1). Maintain affordable housing bond aggregator (NHFIC) (2). Carry through review of community housing regulation
Affordable housing subsidy Initiate 10-year program to deliver 250,000 affordable rental homes supported by annual revenue subsidy to investors. Initial target: start 20,000 homes within 3 years. Target: 500,000 new PH and CH homes within 15 years – mainly funded via loans from Federal Housing Trust. This will be supplemented by an initial $1.5B capital grant program rising to $2.5B  after three years.
Homelessness Develop national prevention strategy to counter domestic and family violence and sexual assault (1). Develop national plan to reduce homelessness through COAG. (2). Set up Safe Housing Fund $30M p.a. for tenancy advocacy services; $500M p.a. for crisis housing services
Regional economic development Engage with WA Govt and Qld Govt on City Deals for Perth and SEQ Overhaul and replace City Deals with City Partnerships program
Indigenous Housing Tackle overcrowding in remote communities

(1). In NT, commit an additional $550 million over 5 years from 2023-24,

(2). Provide $251 million in funding to Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia in 2019-20.

(3) Following these interim arrangements, work with the States and Territories to develop an, ongoing partnership to tackle overcrowding, as part of the Closing the Gap Refresh.

 

Other (1). Strengthen NHHA on planning reform, inclusionary zoning and state/territory govt-owned land release. (2). Work with state/territory govts
to support, maintain and grow public housing
Federal Govt to provide financial support to state/territory govts to encourage transition from stamp duty to land tax

Sources: Party websites and media releases. Labor detail mainly from National Platform 2018

Sarah Henderson MP

New Housing Minister introduced to our sector

In her introductory meeting with the new Federal Minister for Disability and Housing, Sarah Henderson MP, CHIA’s Executive Director outlined the sector’s ambition to become the housing provider of choice for renters on low and moderate incomes by the end of the next decade.

Community housing now represents 3.3 per cent of all rental housing, Peta Winzar explained. The sector aims to triple in size to around 300,000 social and affordable rentals by 2028. The primary objective is to offer more choice to tenants. And, at 10 per cent of the rental market, the community housing sector would also be well-positioned to drive improvements across the broader rental market.

CHIA backs draft bill to improve energy efficiency of rentals

CHIA has thrown its support behind a draft bill to establish a three-year pilot program that would enable landlords to claim a tax offset of up to $2,000 per annum for energy upgrades to rental properties leased at $300 per week or less.

In a submission to the Senate Estimates Committee’s review of the draft bill, CHIA CEO Peta Winzar says, ‘We consider the program would provide a valuable incentive for landlords renting properties at the more affordable end of the spectrum to invest in measures that could improve the energy security of low-income households.

‘Energy efficiency measures such as those contemplated in this Bill can reduce energy demand across the whole system, delaying the need for power in infrastructure. In addition to improving energy security for low-income tenants, this could reduce costs to State and Territory governments over the longer term.’

The Committee is required to report by 23 November 2018. A copy of the report will be published on the Committee’s website.

Download CHIA’s submission.

NHFIC now live!

Potential borrowers from the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator (AHBA) can now complete the Expression of Interest forms online to start the process.

To help the National Housing Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC) assess eligibility for AHBA loans, the EOI form asks for some basic information about your community housing organisation, and some details of the amount you may be interested in borrowing; how you plan to use the funds (eg refinance, construction), what security you are offering, and so on.

Note: the EOI form is NOT a formal application for a loan. Only if the EOI is assessed as suitable to proceed will you be asked to submit a loan application.

After the form has been submitted and assessed, the NHFIC will assign a relationship manager to shepherd each community housing organisation through the process. Pacific Capital Partners have been appointed to assist CHOs with the loan origination process, and the NHFIC also has its own in-house originator.

Head over to the NHFIC website to have a look at the EOI form, the Bond Aggregator Guidelines and the FAQs.

If you want more information, pick up the phone to Pacific Capital (02) 8222 8500 or email or call the NHFIC on 1800 549 767.

Queenslanders searching for NRAS properties

According to data from realestate.com.au, NRAS (National Rental Affordability Scheme) was the second most common search term for people looking at property to rent or buy in Queensland in searches on realestate.com.au in the six months to May 31.

The real estate website noted 51,416 searches for NRAS in that time frame, with the a Commonwealth Government program rent subsidy program. Taking first place was ‘pool’ with 197,487 searches.

Energy bill targets affordable rentals

Independent Senator Tim Storer has presented a bill to Parliament that seeks to provide landlords with a $2000 tax credit when they put energy efficient upgrades into rentals that are offered at $300 a week or less.

Senator Storer says, ‘It is estimated that improved energy efficiency in homes could cut energy consumption by up to 50 per cent in many households and cut energy bills by at least another $150 a year.

‘My proposals would fix an anomaly in the tax code where landlords are able to claim the cost of repairs, for example for old inefficient air-conditioning units that do not meet today’s minimum standards.

‘However they are not able to claim for energy efficiency upgrades that would make a big difference to so many who are finding energy bills unaffordable.

‘The proposals would improve the lives of many Australians on low incomes, alleviate anxiety, improve their health, leave more money in their pockets and start to improve the affordability, reliability and sustainability of our energy system.’

CHIA will present a submission on the Inquiry into the bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (improving the Energy Efficiency of Rental Properties) Bill 2018.

The submission will be posted on our website in due course.

 

Life post NRAS

Since mid-2017, CHIA has been talking to the Commonwealth Department of Social Services about the impending wind down of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

Athough 198 incentives will expire in 2018, there are still 1,850 incentives still to be delivered  so the overall pool of active NRAS dwellings will not actually fall until 2020.

After 2020, the rate of NRAS expiries will ramp up to a peak of 9,178 in 2024. By 2026, a total of 36,721 will have left the system.

Community housing organisations currently hold about 40 per cent of al  NRAS incentives. Those NRAS subsidies are worth $140m pa plus a rental stream of between $210m and $500m. This is significant, given the 2017-18 Report on Government Services noted the total income from social housing rents was about $600m a year.

CHIA’s suggestions for easing the transition included:

a reduced rate NRAS (say $5,000) for another few years to encourage investors to keep the dwellings as affordable
putting any ‘handed back’ NRAS incentives into a pool and offering them to landlords to maintain expiring properties in the scheme [no cost to budget]
an ‘availability subsidy’ to take the place of NRAS to enable Community housing organisations to offer rental subsidies for  particular groups, such as single aged renters or family violence survivors.

NRAS exits

Calendar Year Number of Dwellings By State or Territory
ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA Total
2018 67 5 24 7 95 198
2019 32 433 181 179 59 286 50 1,220
2020 157 271 323 262 128 96 131 1,368
2021 393 380 12 1,080 515 153 261 266 3,060
2022 746 457 150 2,696 517 150 1,296 352 6,364
2023 93 605 125 2,499 806 25 1,356 1,110 6,619
2024 542 1,140 188 2,845 1,078 321 2,143 921 9,178
2025 60 1,188 532 603 240 98 501 891 4,113
2026 361 2,008 50 2 596 1,584 4,601
Total 2,384 6,549 1,057 10,232 3,623 1,537 6,034 5,305 36,721

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSS has kindly shared some unpublished data on the NRAS incentives held by community housing organisations that will expire year by year, state by state. The bulk of the community housing owned NRAS properties are in Queensland.

Changing of the guard

CHIA has written to Australia’s new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Federal Housing Minister, Sarah Henderson, to congratulate them on their new roles.

We have also requested meetings with both to discuss the development of a comprehensive, long-term national housing strategy to address the challenge of housing affordability.

Read more about Sarah Henderson.