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A Federal Faux Pas in Budget Buck Passing!

29th March’s Federal Budget offered enticements to all with the blatant exception of those most marginalised and locked out of housing. Young people and those experiencing homelessness and housing stress have all but been forgotten in this budget. There is something a little crass about throwing a few hundred dollars millions of ways instead of consolidating resources derived from our collective taxes and using those dollars to improve housing options for all of our citizens. Federal government will say this is the responsibility of the state. We say – the time is up for 3 layers of government to keep passing the buck! This is a massive federal faux pas at the worst possible time for inaction and indifference.

Housing stress and homelessness is a dire reality in our country at present, a collaborative effort from all is essential. We are appalled at the Federal government’s disinterest in the housing plight of Queenslanders and Australians as well as there being zero recognition of the specific marginalisation and additional barriers faced by young people.

Pre budget, Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), QShelter and 9 other peak bodies wrote to the Federal Government and Opposition, calling for a National Housing Summit to jumpstart a collaboration involving all tiers of government and industry. LGAQ CEO Alison Smith said councils stand ready to work with all levels of government and industry to find ways to address the housing crisis which is affecting the entire country. “We are on the cusp of a Federal Election and local communities across Queensland, and indeed across the country, are looking to all levels of government and industry to show leadership on this important issue” she said. The Federal Housing Minister declined the invitation. LGAQ noted that they saw the response as bitterly disappointing: “If the Federal Government feels it has no role to play in finding a solution to this crisis, then it really begs the question as to why we need a Federal Housing Minister. The recent Parliamentary Inquiry into housing and homelessness, ordered by Minister Sukkar’s colleague, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, has outlined several recommendations impacting all levels of government” Ms Smith stated.

National Shelter has also expressed their bitter disappointment with the Federal government’s housing offerings in Tuesday’s budget. They note that the Federal Budget fails to recognise the needs of so many Australians for housing security and affordability. In the current housing market, the role of the Federal Government has never been more important. We need a nationally coordinated approach, including a National Housing Strategy. National Shelter CEO Emma Greenhalgh commented that “raising the NHFIC liability cap by $2 billion to $5.5 billion will assist community housing providers to deliver some more social and affordable housing. However, this is not a grant provided directly to community housing providers. Providers will still be required to source funding to build housing.” People need something to hope for, ideally a national government who understands their most critical needs and responds in material ways that make a difference. We are at a juncture as a nation. If we continue to ignore structural solutions to housing system failures, we accept homelessness as an embedded and intractable feature of our communities. In that context, we will see citizens respond with food, showers, and other crisis measures which are commendable but will never solve the problem. Ms Greenhalgh further stated: “In the last few weeks, I have addressed a town hall forum on housing, engaged with women in the Real Estate industry, and spoken on a panel with Mayor Clare Stewart to the Sunshine Coast branch of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA). The level of universal concern about housing need is unparalleled in my career and yet Governments are still not being moved to act with courage and conviction”.

Housing responses are urgent. The inclusion of young people in these responses is essential. Leadership is needed. Collective action is needed. The time is now.