Radio Interview with Adam Stephen – ABC Far North Qld – Friday 25 March 2022


SUBJECT: Labor’s Regional First Home Buyer Support Scheme; Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund; National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

ADAM STEPHEN, HOST: This week, we have been talking a lot about the housing crisis that is very real for many of us in regional Queensland. In fact, if you’re renting, you’re living it right now. And today, federal Labor has announced a scheme that might help some of those people currently renting to actually buy their first time. Under what is being proposed, should federal Labor win the next election, they aim to help 10,000 regional families get into the market. But how? Well, let’s find out now. Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare joins us live on Drive. Thank you very much for your time.


STEPHEN: Well, Jason Clare, it has been an extraordinary few years in the property market. You’d have to really cast our minds back very far to remember that quite early on in the pandemic, the banks were actually predicting that we’d see double digit drops in property price value. The exact opposite has occurred, in fact, where we are in North Queensland, many of our markets have seen growth of 20 per cent or more in property prices. What’s that doing for the average working family and their dreams of owning a home?

CLARE: Well, it just makes it harder. You know what it’s like they’re right up north. But it’s true, right across the country, it’s harder to buy a house today than ever before. And if you’re renting, you’ll know it’s harder to rent than ever before. Rental vacancies are almost zero and prices for rents are going through the roof. It means there’s more homeless Australians today, frankly, than ever before. And charities I speak to right across the country tell me that they’re seeing up to triple the number of people asking for a helping hand to pay the rent, or to put food on the table after they’ve paid the rent, than they were before the pandemic and a lot of these people are people where you got mum and dad with a full time job.

STEPHEN: So federal Labor is committing to expanding a scheme that is currently running. We know that the federal government created a scheme where they’d go guarantor, essentially, for people on certain incomes or below certain incomes, if they have five per cent of the deposit, then the federal government, basically the taxpayer, then plays the role of the guarantor. What’s federal Labor seeking to do in terms of that scheme if you do win office?

CLARE: We’re seeking to expand it, in simple terms. It’s a good scheme, but it’s pretty small. It helps about 3000 Australians that live in regional Australia each and every year to buy a home sooner because by the Commonwealth going guarantor, it means you don’t have to pay mortgage insurance. That’s that awful big bill that anybody that’s ever had to pay it know it comes as a big surprise when you sign up for a mortgage. If you don’t have a 20 per cent deposit, you’ve got to pay mortgage insurance. So, a scheme like this that avoids you having to pay it is a good thing. Doesn’t cost the Commonwealth Government very much money to go guarantor, but it saves Australians who are seeking to buy their first time, a lot of money. But the scheme is pretty small at the moment, we’re going to triple the size of it by creating a standalone scheme of 10,000 guarantees for regional Aussies, and we’re doing that, frankly, because as much as house prices have gone up right across the country, we’ve seen them jump by a greater degree of magnitude in regional Australia than anywhere else in the last 12 months.

STEPHEN: Jason Clare, this is a scheme you said it’s been working relatively well, albeit with a small number of people when you look at the total property market. What would be the stipulations under what you’re proposing? Who would be eligible and what would be the requirements for them?

CLARE: Number one: you’ve got to live in it. It’s not for investment purposes. Two: it’s not available for multimillionaires, it’s available for people who earn up to $125,000 if they’re a single person seeking to purchase the home, or $200,000, if they’re a couple. There’s also price caps that the current scheme the government has in place for the type of home or the price of the home that you can purchase. So, for example, in Cairns, it’s $450,000. In Sydney, it’s $800,000. I’m conscious that because prices have gone through the roof right across the country, if we’re fortunate enough to win the next election, we’re going to have to review those price caps immediately to make sure that the caps are set at the level where young people are seeking to buy a home. They’re some of the obvious criteria that are set for a scheme like this.

STEPHEN: Jason Clare is the Federal Opposition spokesperson, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness. We’ll get to social housing, Jason Clare, because we know wait lists for social housing are only increasing. An example being Palm Island off the coast of North Queensland. They have over 300 people waiting for home and overcrowding a real issue. We know it’s not only Palm Island, many of the remote indigenous communities’ face this, but we’re seeing overcrowding now in our regional towns and cities as well as people are being forced out of rentals or having to double or triple up in homes just to be able to find a roof over their head. What’s Labor’s plans for social housing?

CLARE: Well, the amount of social housing that we’ve got Adam is just constantly going down and down the down. There’s less public housing today than it was 10 years ago. If you go way back to just after World War Two, 14 per cent of the housing in Australia was what you’d call public housing or social housing. It’s now down to about four per cent. State governments are doing their bit to build back. The Queensland Government’s got a program in place, the Victorian Government’s got a big one as well. But if we’re really going to shift the dial, and build more housing for homeless Aussies, build more housing for women and kids fleeing domestic violence, build more housing for that matter for homeless veterans, and where I come from in Sydney one in 10 people sleeping rough in a park or on the street in Sydney tonight’s a veteran, then it’s going to take the Commonwealth to do some work here, show a bit of leadership and help build more social housing as well. That’s why Albo said if we win the next election, we’ll set up a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund. That’s $10 billion that’s invested and the dividend from that every year helps to go towards building social housing and building affordable housing. It’ll build 30,000 homes in the first five years. It won’t surprise you that it was Albo’s idea. Here’s a bloke who grew up in social house. He credits the house that he lived in as a son of a single mum on disability pension of providing him with a roof over his head and starting his life. He wants to make sure that’s available for more Australians.

STEPHEN: This week, we have heard a number of the peak industry and representative groups in Queensland joining forces with the Local Government Association. And they’ve sent a letter to your office and also that of Michael Sukkar and asking for a National Housing Summit. They said the issue is so big, so complex, there are so many factors behind the current housing crisis, that only a National Summit can really bring all the players together and look at big picture ideas to resolve it. Would you be supportive of that? Do you think that that would be something that federal Labor would convene if elected?

CLARE: I’m open to it. I think we’ve got to go one step further. You’ve got to develop a wholesale national plan to tackle this. This is, you use the word crisis, Adam, it’s not melodramatic to say that. If it’s harder to buy and harder to rent than ever before, and there are more homeless Australians than ever before, then this is a crisis. It should be on the agenda at National Cabinet each and every time it meets. We’ve already promised that if we win the next election, we’ll do what local governments in Queensland have asked for and what the property councils asked for and what homeless organisations have asked for, and that is develop a National Housing Plan the National Housing and Homelessness Plan. Like I said before, we’re not going to fix this unless you get the federal government interested and taking a leadership role. At the moment, the Federal Government just blames the states, and they just blame local governments and say it’s their fault. That’s what the current housing minister said. We didn’t even have a housing minister under the Liberals and the Nationals until three years ago. We’ve got one now, this Housing Minister refuses to even contemplate a plan like this, let alone a summit, let alone even talking to some of the key stakeholders in this area. So, I think they’re right. They’re coming at it from the right direction. The Capital City Mayors have called for this as well. If we’re serious about trying to make it easier for people to buy, make it easier for people to rent and to put a roof over the head of more homeless Australians, then we’re going to need federal leadership here and a national plan to do it.

STEPHEN: Jason Clare, thank you for joining us on Drive across regional Queensland this afternoon.

CLARE: Good on you. Thanks very much, Adam.