Shelter WA has produced an analysis of the State Government Budget Papers and identified the key commitments and measures that will have a direct impact on all West Australians, with a focus on affordable housing and ending homelessness.
On Thursday, 9 May 2019, the McGowan Government released its third budget, outlining the State’s economic and fiscal strategy and program and service delivery priorities. With a projected return to surplus, the State Government has got its house in order. But what does the State budget mean for people concerned about a place to call home?
Housing influences so many other outcomes
Housing influences a whole range of non-housing outcomes including workforce participation, access to jobs, services, social participation, family stability and educational outcomes. Investment in housing will drive initiatives outlined in Our Priorities: Sharing Prosperity, including the delivery of a strong economy, a liveable environment, Aboriginal well-being, a bright future, a safer community and regional prosperity. Investment in housing does not just deliver economic benefits to our State, but it also brings the positive impact on people’s lives that safe, secure and stable housing has.
Treasurer Ben Wyatt highlighted that this budget is all about responsible financial management, the continuation of existing service delivery and a key focus on keeping household charges at the lowest levels in years. However, there is no significant commitment to new investment in social housing and homelessness services. This will impact on the community services sector and the client’s that they serve. Shelter WA believes that despite a budget surplus, it is unacceptable that housing insecurity and homelessness remain a key issue for many West Australians.
The budget forecasts an increase in Gross State Product to 3.5 per cent in 2019-20 based on an increase in business investment. Employment is expected to grow by 1.75 per cent (or 23,500 jobs) in 2019-20 under investment initiatives. This McGowan Budget delivers a return to surplus (of $553 million) in 2018-19, with further surplus positions forecast over the forward estimates. The return to surplus has been driven by the focus on reducing recurrent government expenditure and paying down of debt from the improved GST contributions and an expected lift in economic activity in 2019-20.
The key announcement for housing is a targeted housing stimulus package (1 July 2019 to 31 December 2019) increase to the income limits for eligible Keystart applicants ($15,000 for singles and couples, and $20,000 for families) to stimulate additional home loans, expected to largely flow through to new dwelling construction, boosting local jobs in the construction sector. Whilst this initiative is welcome, Shelter WA’s priority for this budget was sustained and increased investment in social and affordable housing and homelessness services.
With 14,000 people on the social housing waitlist, with an average waiting time of 2.5 years, and affordable accommodation remaining out of reach for many Western Australians, particularly for people on income support, the time to act is now. Shelter WA believes this budget is a missed opportunity to invest in housing not only to drive government priorities but to share prosperity.