Australian Infrastructure Plan

Infrastructure Australia (IA) has released their 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan.

The plan is a practical and actionable roadmap for infrastructure reform. It focuses on reforms and policy recommendations that will deliver better infrastructure outcomes for Australian communities.

Housing

The plan contains four documents. Housing is recognised in social infrastructure. The executive summary documents states under housing infrastructure reform (page 48)

Housing stock — addressing the shortfall.
The quality, supply and design of social housing across the country is inadequate. There needs to be more investment to improve the standard of dwellings, address the growing shortfall and provide a greater range of housing types. Better financial cases for social and affordable rental housing must be tested and applied consistently. Under the agents of change Community Housing Providers are acknowledged.

Social Housing

A key message of the full infrastructure plan is that, Social housing quality, supply and design are inadequate across the country. The case must be made to drive more investment, improve the standard of dwellings, address the growing shortfall and provide a greater range of housing type (page 512).

The plan provides an overview of the social housing sector.

Under section 8.1.5 The plan outlines the need to Expand the pipeline of well-located, high -quality social and affordable rental housing by prioritising and implementing efficient medium- to long-term financing programs. Also to Support community housing providers by continuing to develop and implement programs that build capacity and capability. Proposed lead: State and territory social housing providers, National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation Supported by: Department of Social Services, Australian Treasury (page 527).

The plan also highlights the importance of investing in social and affordable rental housing (page 532), recognising that the providing of social housing is slowly shifting from a model of public supply (owned and managed by Governments) to a mixed model. Community housing providers are playing a greater role through both title and management transfers of former public housing and new housing development (page 534).

Recommendations

The implementation plan has some positive recommendations over the 0-5 years under social infrastructure such as:

  • Activity 8.3.2.1: Assess the quadruple bottom-line benefits of social and affordable rental housing by building on existing frameworks and developing an agreed, consistent approach to measuring its economic impact. Use the approach to inform and support the national valuation framework.
  • Activity 8.3.2.2: Harmonise the collection and availability of data across different government departments and housing sectors by developing a housing and homelessness reporting process and dataset that are comprehensive and consistent.

Next Five to Ten Years

  • Outcome 8.1.5: Enable greater social and economic participation by designing programs to increase the supply and improve the quality of social and affordable rental housing.
  • Activity 8.1.5.1: Expand the pipeline of well-located, high-quality social and affordable rental housing by prioritising and implementing efficient medium- to long-term financing programs.
  • Activity 8.1.5.2: Improve housing quality by developing and implementing innovative efficient programs to reduce the maintenance backlog of social dwellings within their remaining economic life while recycling stock that has reached or passed the end of its economic life.
  • Activity 8.1.5.4: Support community housing providers by continuing to develop and implement programs that build capacity and capability.
  • Activity 8.3.2.3: Deliver improved social and affordable rental housing outcomes by adopting the quadruple-bottom-line approach to prioritise investment.

State and Territory Housing Recommendations

  • Improve the energy efficiency, health and comfort of rental properties by implementing a national minimum energy efficiency standard, including mechanisms for tenants to initiate energy efficiency upgrades of rental properties. This should build on work already underway to set out considerations for development of rental standards through the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings and Report for Achieving Low Energy Existing Homes.
  • Ensure quadruple bottom-line outcomes by accelerating performance upgrades to social infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and public and community housing stock. Prioritise the increased installation of solar PV, storage and smart meters in social housing.
  • Deliver cost-effective emissions reduction and broad sustainability benefits consistent with the quadruple-bottom-line by prioritising energy efficiency in the built environment and social infrastructure.
  • Improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions from new social infrastructure by increasing performance standards and updating the National Construction Code in line with the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings.

Social and Affordable Housing

It’s the first time social and affordable rental housing has appeared in the national plan and comes following substantial engagement with engagement with the community sector. We were pleased to provide input into the Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) submission which responded to the need for evidence to substantiate the benefits arising from social housing. We look forward to ongoing engagement through national peaks and government on the Australian Infrastructure Plan.