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Important information from Council to Homeless Persons

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Council to Homeless Persons sector bulletin header

Sector Bulletin

1 November 2017

National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA)

Dear colleagues

On Wednesday 25 October, the Federal Government introduced a Bill to terminate the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), and define the terms of a new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).

The Bill was introduced without warning or consultation, two days before it was to be discussed with state and territory Treasurers. 

Jenny Smith, CEO of CHP, as Chair of Homelessness Australia, worked with National Shelter to release this response to the Bill, highlighting serious concern, both in relation to the process of its introduction, and around the content of the proposed legislation. VCOSS and the Victorian Government have also expressed concerns.

Jenny also spoke to these concerns on ABC RN Drive.

Last Friday our federal, state and territories’ Treasurers met as the Council on Federal Financial Relations. Following that meeting, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison put out a release that some media misread as meaning that the States and Territories had reached agreement on the multilateral component of the NHHA. CHP’s understanding is that the only agreement achieved, is for the States and Territories to publish housing and homelessness plans, and to continue to negotiate.

Background

At the time of the May 2017 federal budget, CHP reported the Federal Government’s announcement that it would roll the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) that funds social housing and homelessness, and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) that provides additional investment in homelessness, into one agreement to create a new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).

You can read our detailed analysis of the May budget here. In summary, the announcement indicated that this would not provide any new funds for social housing or homelessness, though it would lock in the previously time limited NPAH funding into perpetuity and include indexation.
Since May, a negotiating process between the federal and state governments has been progressing to nut out the details of the new Agreement.

CHP’s concerns about the Bill are:

Accountability

  • The rhetoric in the lead up to the Bill has focused on requiring greater accountability from the States for use of federal resources. The federal Treasurer has argued that the States have failed to achieve NAHA performance measures such as reducing:
    • the proportion of low income renter households in rental stress, and
    • the proportion of Australians who are homeless;
  • However, the main drivers of rental stress and homelessness are increasing private sector rents and inadequate social security incomes. These are primarily driven by federal government policies – like welfare, rent assistance, and tax – that are not part of the NAHA.
  • CHP agrees that more transparency and accountability about the current expenditure of funds is needed from state and territory governments. One particular area where more accountability is required is around States matching funds. The Agreement that preceded the NAHA, the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (CSHA) required the States to match federal investment, but there is no requirement for matching in the NAHA. 
  • The Bill provides the Federal Government with the power to potentially introduce unrealistic accountability measures, and to cut funding to the States and Territories if measures are not achieved.

Scope

  • The current NAHA provides the base funding that underpins our current public housing and delivery of many homelessness and family violence services. The Federal Government has indicated the scope should broaden to include accountability for provision of broader affordable housing outcomes, like affordable home purchase and discounted rental housing for people whose incomes are too high to get into public housing.
  • In the absence of additional funding, this would mean reallocating resources currently used to respond to housing crisis for the poorest households, and in part using it for relatively wealthier households.

What needs to happen?

Council to Homeless Persons is arguing that:

  • The Federal Government needs to significantly increase spending on social housing to meet growing demand.
  • The Federal Government needs to develop a federal strategy to end homelessness that addresses critical drivers of homelessness, including social security spending, family violence prevention, and measures to deliver affordable rental housing.
  • The new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement should be introduced as a package negotiated and agreed with the States and Territories, together with the accountability measures (what the Agreement aims to achieve), and the performance framework (how the measures will be monitored).

We will continue to monitor the development of the new agreement and keep you informed of progress.