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Albanese hails deal with states to ‘get housing moving’

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says a plan to fix Australia’s housing shortage has been agreed to with state and territory leaders and will boost the supply of new homes.

Aug 16, 2023, updated Aug 16, 2023

National Cabinet met on Wednesday to address what Albanese said was one of the biggest problems facing Australians.

Leaders agreed to set ambitious new targets to boost the supply of new houses being built across the country.

“In short, (it’s) upfront money to get housing moving quickly,” Albanese said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Some $3 billion in incentives will go to state and local governments that beat their existing targets for new home builds.

The meeting of the national cabinet on Wednesday afternoon also agreed to establish a new national framework for renters’ rights and move towards a national policy for streamlining planning regulations.

The government will pay state governments $15,000 for new home constructions that exceed their existing targets for approving and building new homes.

That will increase the scope of the government’s existing Housing Accord, which had aimed to build one million new homes over five years.

“This is an additional 200,000 new homes above the National Housing Accord target agreed by states and territories last year,” he said.

Another $500 million will incentivise governments to approve new homes in “well-located” areas next to essential infrastructure.

The PM also announced a “better deal” for renters or a plan to harmonise different state laws on renters’ rights with a consistent national policy.

The finished policy would cover issues such as stopping tenants from being evicted without grounds, “moving towards” limiting rent increases to once-per-year and phasing in other national minimum standards.

“These changes will make a tangible impact for the almost one-third of Australians who rent,” Albanese said.

The meeting in Brisbane also agreed to bring in a new national blueprint for overhauling planning.

Albanese said the blueprint would cover proposals to streamline state governments’ planning, zoning and land release processes.

The meeting occurred amid an ongoing political fight over housing between the government and the Greens.

In June, the government’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund failed to pass the Senate after the minor party teamed up with the Coalition to block its passage.

The Greens, who say the Fund’s expenditure is not large enough to meet the need for housing, said they would support the bill and called on the government to use Wednesday’s national cabinet to coordinate a national freeze on rents.

But Albanese said no states were considering rent freezes because he said it would negatively affect housing supply and the construction of new housing.

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Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather said it would be “extraordinary” if a group of mostly Labor premiers and the prime minister decided they would lock in unlimited rent increases.

“We’re not saying a freeze on rent increases would fix everything, but it’s part of a solution,” he said.

Housing advocacy body Everybody’s Home said national cabinet could start easing the crisis if it introduced strong reforms to protect renters.

“There’s no doubt we need more social housing but we also need to fix the unstable and unaffordable private rental market,” spokeswoman Maiy Azize said.

“Many renters are not only struggling to secure a home but when they have one it’s a battle to keep it.”

Albanese earlier turned political pressure back onto the Greens when he challenged the minor party to support the government’s housing fund.

“We’re really hoping (the housing fund) goes through and that the Greens in particular have a rethink and break away from the contradiction,” he told Triple M Hobart.

“You can’t say you want more public housing and then vote against it.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns said tackling the housing crisis would involve a whole of community approach, including industry and all levels of government.

“Ambitious targets are welcome, but this will require a strong federal-state partnership to deliver them,” he said.

But Liberal Senator Jane Hume said the Commonwealth could not just “throw money” at the states and think the problem would be solved.

Senator Hume said the government needed to focus on encouraging the construction of new homes.

“You’re going to have to bring the states into line and you’re going to have to make sure that local councils are also on board with rezoning and opening up new opportunities for building houses,” she told Sky News.

This story first appeared in our sister publication The New Daily

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