In the media

New bill to help achieve human right to housing

Media release, 24 June 2024

ACT Independent Senator David Pocock and Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink are today jointly introducing a bill into the Senate and House of Representatives that would require adequate housing to be treated as a human right for every Australian by mandating that the Federal Government make a long-term plan to transform Australia’s dysfunctional housing system.

The bill would require current and future governments to develop, implement and maintain a 10-year National Housing and Homelessness Plan in line with legislated objectives, including improving housing supply, affordability and ending homelessness. At its heart is the goal of
ensuring everyone in Australia has an adequate home.

The legislation will define the Plan’s scope and ambition, as well as specifying the housing policy challenges it must address. It would create a framework in which to develop the detailed Plan with guidelines for genuine consultation, preserving the ability to negotiate with states and territories while increasing transparency, accountability and the Plan’s standing and durability. The government of the day would be responsible for developing policies and programs under the Plan and reporting on progress.

The bill proposes establishing a National Housing Consumer Council (NHCC) to represent both tenants and homebuyers and an Office of the National Housing and Homelessness Advocate, to independently monitor the progress of the Plan, assess its outcomes and investigate systemic housing issues.

Some 117 individuals and organisations including leading academics, industry experts, economists, former politicians from both sides of politics, peak bodies and advocates have signed an open letter calling on the Housing Minister to legislate such a Plan.

“We need big ambition and bold action if we are to stand any chance of solving Australia’s crippling housing crisis,” Senator Pocock said.

“The complexity of this crisis requires a long-term strategy and commitment that endures beyond short-term political cycles. Legislating the ongoing requirement for a National Housing and Homelessness Plan can help deliver that.

“Having a transparent framework, with agreed national objectives embedded in legislation and greater accountability can help transform how we treat housing from being a vehicle of wealth creation to a fundamental human right.

“This bill seeks to build on and future proof the work currently underway, and responds to the calls from a huge cross section of stakeholders to enshrine a beefed up National Housing and Homelessness Plan in legislation.”

Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink says this legislation would help bring clarity and urgency to tackling one of the country’s most pressing issues.

“Every Australian deserves the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to adequate housing. Access to safe and secure housing is one of our most basic human rights and is fundamental to individuals, families, communities and our nation thriving,” Ms Tink said.

“For too long, our approach to housing policy has been piecemeal, short-term or simply put in the ‘too hard basket’ and the results have been disastrous.

“Amid a new wave of homelessness, worsening rental affordability and intergenerational inequity, and housing affordability surging to ‘impossible’ levels, we urgently need to come together to deliver a meaningful, legislated, national approach to ensure all Australians have adequate housing. One that recognises housing as a fundamental human right, not a commodity, and ensures bad politics cannot override what should be smart, essential policy ever again.”

Legislating a National Housing and Homelessness Plan will provide more clarity about what the Plan is attempting to achieve and how it will be monitored and evaluated.

The bill also seeks to streamline and better coordinate Commonwealth housing policy development and delivery which is currently fragmented across Treasury, the Department of Social Services, the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council and Housing Australia.

The proposed legislation would utilise the Commonwealth Government’s constitutional authority on external affairs and follows a similar model to Canada which legislated its first ever National Housing Strategy in 2019.

Notable signatories to the open letter include Doug Cameron (former Senator for NSW), John Alexander (former Member for Bennelong) and Rob Stokes (former NSW Planning Minister), Dr Cassandra Goldie (CEO, ACOSS), Toby O’Connor (CEO, Vinnies), Sharon Callister (CEO, Mission Australia), Tone Wheeler (President, Australian Architecture Association), Alison Scotland (Exec Director, Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council), Wendy Hayhurst (CEO, Community Housing Industry Association), Saul Eslake  (independent economist), Adrian Harrington (Chair, Housing for All Australians (NSW), Peter Mares (author and broadcaster), Prof Nicole Gurran (University of Sydney), Prof Kevin Bell (Monash University), Prof Chris Leishman (University of South Australia) and Prof Eileen Baldry (UNSW).

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