If you had the opportunity to redesign Australia’s housing policy and funding arrangements, how would you go about it? Would you start with the existing NAHA / NPAH / NPRH agreements? Some variation of them? Or would you throw it all out and start again?
I for one think we could do a whole lot better. We could create a contemporary housing vision for policy, funding and governance.
For example, why not establish an explicit subsidy for social housing that takes affordability and the service needs of the household into account? A bit like the way the NDIS is developing.
In an era of continually restricted resources, we can’t afford (literally and figuratively) to have a human services industry that operates without explicit assessments, subsidies and outcome measures. Subsidies could be set at an efficient price that also ensures an effective service outcome. This would encourage best practice and ensure households with high needs get the services they need.
We could also have a growth fund with long term social housing supply targets and, importantly, provide a pipeline that helps to finally secure a stream of private investment into social housing. The fund could be designed in a way that rewards innovation and partnerships, gives a range of incentives to recognise different markets – including big and small cities, rural and remote regions – and cater effectively to different demographics, including large families and people with disabilities.
Our housing system funds more than social housing
We also can’t forget that our housing system funds a lot more than social housing. Any new framework would need to fund activities like research and data collection, policy development, consultation, regulation, private rental market services and the like. And perhaps in setting resource levels we could think about whether our current scope and level of delivery is right for the future.
In our new world, how would we tackle the important question of genuine consumer choice? As housing practitioners, we all understand the challenges of introducing choice at the point of crisis. But maybe we could start with trials and learn what works best as we go.
The current media focus on housing affordability and the future of existing funding agreements is a real opportunity for housing practitioners to have a fresh look at how things are going and how we can do things better.
Philip Fagan-Schmidt will be participating in a panel discussion on ‘Developing social & affordable housing policy’ at the Growing Affordable Housing conference in Sydney this May. Book soon to secure early bird rates!