February 24, 2017

Growing and revitalising social housing must be top housing policy for incoming government

Foundation Housing is urging all major political parties in WA to make social housing a priority during the lead up to the March 11 state election or risk becoming known as the state that left its most needy households behind.

Western Australia is in danger of lagging behind almost every other state in providing suitable social housing for the most vulnerable people in our community; according to CEO Kathleen Gregory AM.

Almost every other state has either announced or is soon to introduce comprehensive policies for the growth of their social housing systems, and WA is being left behind.

“The next Government must have a comprehensive plan to grow the social housing system to cater for increasing demand for public and community housing,” Ms Gregory said.

“It’s not enough to assist aspiring first home buyers into the market.  While we support that move, there must be a plan to have enough social housing dwellings in the system to cope with the demand spike we know is coming as our population grows and ages,” said Ms Gregory.

“WA must build on the success of the partnerships between State Government and community housing providers formed as part of the post-GFC stimulus measures.  Those partnerships saw public housing dwellings transferred to community housing providers who were able to leverage them and build more homes for people in need.

“Foundation Housing added 112 units of accommodation in five years to the social housing system on the back of a transfer of 318 dwellings around the state. Other community housing providers were similarly successful in growing the State’s social housing system through partnerships,” said Ms Gregory.

Foundation Housing’s 70-unit apartment building in Bennett Street East Perth, completed in August last year, was among the housing projects delivered via the asset transfer initiative.

“All parties contesting the election in March must understand that if there is no comprehensive plan for social housing involving community housing partners, there will be no more Bennett Street type success stories,” Ms Gregory said.

“It is frustrating that six years after the inception of the State Affordable Housing Strategy the Government has failed to deliver a plan to grow and revitalise social housing in the State.

“In 2016, New South Wales announced a comprehensive reform package which will provide for far greater involvement of the community housing sector in social housing provision and grow the system there. Tasmania has also introduced a suite of progressive policies. Queensland and Victoria are due to announce detailed plans this year. The incoming government needs to work with key stakeholders to develop a plan for WA as a matter of urgency or we will stick out like a sore thumb as the state that left its most vulnerable people behind.

“Currently, the housing market in WA is well supplied and even oversupplied in respect of rental housing which makes things easier for low income households. This will not last. Now is the time to put measures in place to grow the system before the waitlists and homelessness rates start to climb again.”