Building bonus package to provide much needed social housing

Shelter WA welcomes today’s investment of $319M into social housing to build Western Australia’s economic and social recovery. This is a win-win, providing much needed jobs, housing and delivering enduring value for the people of Western Australia.

“This investment will go some way in addressing the years of chronic underfunding of social housing,” said Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA. “The lack of social housing is a major contributor to homelessness. Social housing provides a critical safety net for people that cannot afford private rentals or to purchase their own home. This investment is good news, not only for the economy but for the individuals and families who need a place to call home.”

We welcome the investment in maintenance and repairs. The people who are the most poor often live in homes that are the most expensive to run. We know that poor housing conditions can impact on people’s physical and mental health. To ensure ongoing benefits for tenants, and the environment, we urge the State Government to build these new homes in line with the National Construction Code 2019. In addition, these homes need to be universally designed to meet the housing needs of every age and ability.

The pandemic has exposed the acute pressures on the social housing system. Pre-COVID there were already more than 14,000 people on the waitlist for social housing, and a shortfall of 39,000 social homes, and as calls for housing assistance increased during the pandemic, services were unable to respond, leaving people living on the street.

This investment contains a range of initiatives such as first home-owner grants and stamp duty concessions to drive housing construction. Whilst these initiatives are important, we stress that investment must maximise social and economic returns, and social housing investment will not only drive recovery but will bridge the housing poverty gap for many West Australians.

The Western Australian community housing sector is well placed to drive this investment in partnership with the State Government and the construction industry as outlined in Media Release: SHARP investment in Social Housing will create one thousand jobs. “Community housing organisations have planned maintenance and refurbishments programs ready to go, along with shovel-ready projects and longer-term development projects in the pipeline. Also, they can harness new investment into the housing system to drive new supply,” Ms Mackenzie, said.

With the economic downturn, we are concerned that there will be a new wave of housing insecurity and homelessness, as the Jobseeker and JobKeeper programs are predicted to end, along with the moratorium on rent increases and evictions. “This investment is important. With social housing and homelessness services already underfunded, and a new wave of housing insecurity and homelessness predicted as a result of the crisis.

The lack of sustained investment in the social housing system has seen a steady decrease in the growth of the number of new properties, with the majority of the new homes built due to the stimulus undertaken in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. “Social housing is critical, so nobody is homeless or living in housing insecurity. It is important economic and social infrastructure and an appropriate use of government funding. We welcome today’s investment announcement and urge that future investment into social housing is maintained and sustained and not reliant on an economic crisis” said Ms Mackenzie.

To arrange an interview with our CEO Michelle Mackenzie, please contact Heather Bush, Head of Communications and Marketing here.

Fast Facts

  • Over 9,000 people experience homelessness every night in Western Australia.
  • 14,000 people are on the joint waitlist for social housing in Western Australia.
  • 39,200 social housing properties are needed to meet current demand in WA.
  • Less than 1 per cent of rental properties are affordable to people on low incomes.