Radio Interview with Melinda James- ABC Illawarra Breakfast – Wednesday 10 November 2021


SUBJECTS: Housing crisis in Gilmore and the Illawarra; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund. 

MELINDA JAMES, HOST: The Federal Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare, is headed to the Shoalhaven today and he joins me now. Good morning to you.


JAMES: The house prices in Shoalhaven compared to a lot of other regions, I know northern New South Wales has just gone gangbusters and is really out of reach for most people, but we’re not far behind a hearing the South Coast. Do you see this as being akin to intergenerational theft? You agree with Jason Falinksi?

CLARE: In some cases, prices have jumped more than they have on the north coast and what it’s doing is for a lot of young people who grow up in the regions, whether it’s the South Coast of New South Wales or the North Coast, it means that they’ll never be able to afford to buy a house in the town, in the region where they grew up. Unless you’ve got that helping hand from Mum and Dad, it becomes all but impossible. Prices have jumped by 20 per cent right across the country but in parts of Australia we’ve seen a jump of more than twice that and the South Coast is no exception. In Gerringong, prices have jumped by I think 49 per cent just in the last 12 months. In Kembla Grange that jumped by 57 per cent and in Bulli by 44 per cent. That just makes it harder and harder for people to buy a house.

JAMES: We talk a lot about the various responsibilities and what different levels of government are actually capable of doing, what is the federal government’s responsibility here given that it seems it’s dead politically for either party to really address things like changes to negative gearing or caps on investment, various tax write offs? Are they completely off the table now in the lead up to the next election for the ALP?

CLARE: The federal government can play a leadership role here. We took some tax policies to the last election that were rejected by the Australian people. We’ve listened and learned from that, but the problem still exists. If anything, the challenge of buying your first home or buying any home is getting harder and harder. It’s not just buying a home, though. It’s rent as well and you touched on that in your introduction. Rents are through the roof. In Sydney rents have gone up by five per cent in the last year, but on the South Coast, in many places, they’ve gone up by three or four times that. That means that you’re paying more in rent, having less money to save for a deposit or to spend on on the family, and more and more people are homeless than ever before. There are more homeless Australians than ever before. So, the challenge for all political parties is how do you make it easier for Australians to buy, how do you make it easier for Australians to rent and what do you do to try and put a roof over the head of more homeless Australians. One obvious thing that you can do is have the federal government more involved in building more housing, building more affordable housing. We announced earlier this year that if we win the election, that now looks like it’ll happen in March or May of next year, we’ll set up a Housing Australia Future Fund. It’s a $10 billion fund to build thousands of social housing homes and affordable housing homes right across the country where they’re needed. The South Coast is a prime example of that, where you’ve got thousands of people on the social housing waiting list where you’ve got at least four or 500 people who are homeless, and where the federal government puts up its hands and says ‘no, that’s not our job to do that, that’s the job of the state government’. Well, that’s just wrong. Ever since Chifley, after World War Two, the federal government’s played a role in building housing for people who need it. And we desperately need to be doing things like that right now.

JAMES: And the how would that look, the federal government builds these 20,000 homes, I think, was part of the budget in reply speech that the opposition leader Anthony Albanese gave; $10 billion for 20,000 affordable homes once they’re built. So what, the government, is it some kind of partnership with the private sector? Does the government build them outright? Is there been some kind of institutional landlord scenario there? What how does it work?

CLARE: It’s a partnership with community housing organisations and there’s some great examples of that on the South Coast. It’s $10 billion that’s invested with the Future Fund Board of Guardians and the dividend from that investment is used to be invested in social and affordable housing, year after year. So in the first five years, it would help to fund the construction of 30,000 social and affordable housing homes and service payments are paid to community housing organisations to fill the gap between the rent that they get from the tenant and the cost to repay the loan. Similar to a New South Wales Government scheme called the Social and Affordable Housing Fund. What it means is upfront, you can build a lot of homes that are desperately needed for people who are often homeless or in need of housing. The best example I can think of is women and kids fleeing domestic violence. Last year 10,000 mums and kids across the country were turned away from refuges because they were full and refuges are fuller than ever before. Two reasons: one because of the impact of Covid and lockdown. But secondly, because there’s not enough transitional and long term housing for women and their kids to go to so they’re stuck in those refuges for sometimes up to six months. What this fund will do, of those 30,000 home, 4000, at least, would be earmarked for women and kids fleeing domestic violence. And if we win the election, and are able to do that, that would be the biggest investment in permanent housing for women and kids fleeing domestic violence ever in the history of this country.

JAMES: Just finally, as you said, there’s going to be a federal election in probably March or May next year. It looks like you, as the Federal Opposition are not going to put forward any sort of curbing of some of the generous tax write offs that currently exists. Every time we talk about this particular topic, people say, what about some sort of cap on investment? What about just reducing some of the incentives for people who are already in the market unable to invest? Is that completely off the table curbing any of those generous sort of tax incentives that applied to people? You clearly thought it was a good idea before the last election? Is it simply because it’s not politically popular, or the people who benefit the most spoke out against it quite loudly?

CLARE: I made the point before, we took it to, not just the last election but the last two elections, it was rejected by the Australian people. You’ve got to learn from that. I also think that after all of the the economic tumult of the last 18 months, the last thing Australians want is that sort of big change. But the problem still exists and we will take to the next election policies designed to try and tackle that. It’s, I think, incumbent upon all political parties to look at ways to make it easier for people to buy a home, whether they’re young or old, but also look at ways to make it easier for people to rent and also tackle that chronic, awful problem that besets not just the South Coast but the entire country of more and more Australians who are homeless today than ever before.

JAMES: Thank you so much for your time this morning on the way there to Nowra.

CLARE: Thanks.