11 September 2023
Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has introduced a Bill to Parliament to increase the amount of Government housing funding that will go to regional Australia.
The Unlocking Regional Housing Bill specifically addresses the housing crisis in regional, rural and remote Australia, by making funding easier to access and requiring the Minister to look at action so that at least 30 per cent of funding to go to regional, rural and remote Australia.“
Housing is the biggest issue facing people in my region, in major regional centres and in tiny towns. The Government says it is working on housing, but their announcements don’t have any guaranteed dedicated funding for regional Australia,” Dr Haines said.
“My Bill would amend the rules that decide how the Government’s housing funding is spent, making it easier to access for regional councils to open up land and get more houses built so more people can get roofs over their heads.
“The message I have received loud and clear in my communities is we need Government to step in and fund critical enabling infrastructure – the sewerage, the drainage, other amenities. It’s not sexy to talk about gutters and pipes, but I want to make it happen and that is why I introduced this Bill.
“Almost one in three Australians live outside the major cities. The housing needs and demands of our regional communities are different. The lack of housing supply is a handbrake on our local economies, we can’t fill important jobs as there is nowhere for people to live.
“This Bill proposes sensible measures to ensure we can act on the regional housing and homelessness crisis by building housing where it is needed most.”
The Bill would amend to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) Act to:
- require the Minister to consider what action needs to be taken so that 30% of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility’s annual funding goes towards regional, rural and remote Australia;
- make the funding application process easier to access for local governments;
- require NHFIC to be more proactive in helping community housing providers through the application process; and
- require NHFIC to have at least one board member with regional housing expertise.
“After speaking with the Prime Minister and working with the Minister for Housing on this issue the government announced $500 million to fund enabling infrastructure. That amount of money will not stretch very far and not a cent of it is guaranteed to be spent in regional Australia,” Dr Haines said.
Dr Haines has been listening to local housing providers, not for profit organisations and local government to understand the problems and solutions for increasing housing supply in regional areas.
She has also met with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Housing Julie Collins on multiple occasions to make the case for dedicated funding for housing in regional Australia.
Dr Haines moved a series of amendments to the Government’s Housing Australia Future Fund Bill in February.
“I have brought this issue to the attention of the Prime Minister and the Housing Minister, I have sought to work constructively. But it’s clear their Bill is stuck in a stalemate, and I am not willing to wait. That is why I have developed this Bill because I want action on real ways to improve housing in regional and rural Australia,” Dr Haines said.
The $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility (NHIF) was established in 2018 to provide loans, grants and equity to fund new housing infrastructure and upgrades to existing housing infrastructure. Administered by the NHFIC, NHIF has not delivered an equitable distribution of funding for regional Australia, with almost all the funding being used to deliver housing infrastructure in urban areas.
The Bill introduced by Dr Haines would ensure equitable distribution of funding and address the findings of a 2021 Statutory Review of the NHFIC Act which found NHIF has been difficult to access, was poorly understood, and had a complicated and lengthy application process.