ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Social housing boost needed under ACT Government’s land supply and release program

27 April 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) will today give evidence to the ACT Legislative Assembly Committee inquiring into the ACT Government’s land supply and release program saying that more needs to be done to tackle the ACT’s housing crisis.

In its testimony, ACTCOSS will call for more investment and an increased release of land for social and affordable housing to address the ACT’s housing affordability crisis. ACTCOSS’s appearance at the Committee follows its submission to the Inquiry into the Auditor-General’s Report on the ACT Government’s program for the supply and release of residential land.

ACTCOSS has called for more to be done to address the shortage of social housing in Canberra.

Mr Adam Poulter, ACTCOSS Deputy CEO said: “Our submission calls for the ACT Government to ensure its residential land release program helps meet our community’s current and future need for social and affordable housing.

“The Auditor-General’s report highlighted that the ACT Government’s commitment to release 15% of land to affordable, community, and public housing has not always been achieved.

“The ACT Government’s annual residential land release must be based on modelling the community’s need for social and affordable housing and it must prioritise the release of land for housing those most in need.”

ACTCOSS had welcomed The ACT Government’s commitment under the ACT Housing Strategy to dedicate a minimum of 15% of the Indicative Land Release Program each year to affordable, community, and public housing to address the ACT’s housing crisis.  

Modelling by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found that the ACT has a current shortfall of 3,100 social housing dwellings and a projected shortfall of 8,500 by 2036.

Mr Poulter said: “There are currently over 3,000 applicants on the ACT’s social housing wait list with an average wait time for standard housing of well over four years. There were an estimated 1,600 people experiencing homelessness on Census night in Canberra in 2016, and data shows an increase in demand for specialist homelessness services since then.  

“We need more land to be released for social housing. Currently the Government releases land at full market value. This makes the provision of more public housing by the Government expensive, and means that community housing providers providing subsidised rentals are unable to afford to purchase land to increase the number of dwellings.”

Currently less than 1% of the housing stock in the ACT is held by community housing providers, much lower than in other parts of Australia. Modelling by the Community Housing Industry Association shows that if provided with a discount of $100,000-$150,000 on individual plot purchases, they would be able to construct housing which would be made available to people on low incomes at below (74.9%) market rentals for decades to come.

ACTCOSS has welcomed the ACT Government’s commitments under the 2020 Parliamentary and Governing Agreement to deliver a total of 400 additional public housing dwellings by 2025 and an additional 600 affordable housing dwellings by 2025-26. However, the AHURI modelling indicates that this commitment will fall well short of addressing the current and future need for social and affordable housing in our community.

Mr Poulter continued: “ACTCOSS is also calling on the ACT Government to provide transparency around its commitments to deliver additional public and affordable housing by 2025.

“The 2022 Report on Government Services revealed that in 2021 there were 91 fewer public housing dwellings in the ACT than there were in 2012, and over 300 fewer than in 2018. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that the social share of social housing in the ACT has declined from 7.6% in 2014 to 6.7% in 2020.

“The data suggests the ACT is going backwards in terms of social and affordable housing. We need the ACT Government to provide clarity as to the baseline against which its commitments are being measured and to publicly report at least annually on progress towards these targets.”

Mr Poulter concluded: “ACTCOSS recognises that greater investment from both the ACT and Federal governments is required if this need is to be met. With a federal election looming, ACTCOSS is calling on ACT candidates to support the Everybody’s Home campaign to increase the national social housing stock by 25,000 homes per year – this would mean building at least 425 new social housing dwellings per year in Canberra.”

ACTCOSS’s submission to the inquiry into the Auditor-General’s report on the ACT Government’s program for the supply and release of residential land can be found on the ACT Government website.

ACTCOSS’s testimony will be livestreamed from 2:15 to 2:45 pm today.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Mr Adam Poulter, Deputy CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0422 036 979 or 02 6202 7200.