Affordable housing advocacy bodies have condemned recent remarks made by the leader of the Commonwealth’s current inquiry into housing affordability, Liberal MP Jason Falinski.
Mr Falinski’s remarks were first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald following his appearance on an Urban Development Institute of Australia’s webcast, where the member for Mackellar claimed that social and affordable housing schemes drove up housing prices and limited supply.
“Affordable housing in different guises can do different things, but ultimately, it has the problem of reducing supply while increasing costs, and in some cases, looks and smells like rent control, which ... actually means that people pay higher rents,” Mr Falinski said.
Mr Falinski reportedly equated social housing with “housing commission,” and questioned the effectiveness of government programs that provide accommodation for people on low incomes.
“Since World War II, housing commission has had a lot of negative impact on vulnerable communities and I query whether building it actually helps people in challenged communities,” Mr Falinski said.
In response, the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA), Homelessness Australia, and National Shelter have since released a joint statement, calling Mr Falinski’s comments uninformed and prejudiced.
“Affordable rental housing adds to housing supply, adds construction jobs and adds dollars in economic output,” they countered.
Mr Falinski’s comments came in the same week that the Women’s Safety Summit called attention to the fundamental role access to affordable and long-term housing had on the recovery of victim-survivors of violence.
The statement from the joint bodies suggested that Mr Falinski’s comments were out of touch with the realities facing many vulnerable Australians, as well as official thinking.
“Every day, homelessness services are having to scramble to find safe places for women and the children to stay. We urgently need more investment in long-term social housing options,” Jenny Smith, chair of Homelessness Australia, said.
Wendy Hayhurst, CEO of the Community Housing Industry Association said Mr Falinski’s sentiments were not aligned with independent evaluations of the country’s housing needs.
“Only last week Infrastructure Australia recommended the design and implementation of programs to increase supply,” Ms Hayhurst noted.
They called for the current inquiry into housing affordability to ensure it’s properly examining the need for social and affordable housing in Australia.
“Social and affordable rental housing can be a haven for women escaping violence, provide stability to help people recover from illness and act as a springboard into homeownership,” their statement noted.
“It is crucial that all levels of government work collaboratively with the sector to address this most pressing of issues for Australians in housing need.”
Submissions to the inquiry closed on Monday, September 13. A report into the committee's findings is expected in early 2022.