Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines addressed an audience of local governments, not-for-profits, peak bodies and housing advocates as a keynote speaker at the National Regional Housing Summit in Canberra on Friday.
The Summit was hosted by the Regional Australia Institute, the Master Builders Association and the Real Estate Institute of Australia who spoke of the challenges of the current housing crisis in regional, rural and remote Australia.
“As a regional Independent I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about the housing challenges facing regional and rural Australia, and I am thrilled to be part of this coalition of like minded people and organisations from across the country who are telling the federal and state governments to do better on regional housing,” Dr Haines said.
“I don’t think that it is wilful neglect of our governments, but I do think that regional Australia is a blind spot for the federal government.
“Addressing the housing crisis is one of the most important conversations for the nation right now and I am working to ensure the voices of regional Australians are front and centre.”
Dr Haines introduced her Unlocking Regional Housing Bill to the Parliament in September 2023. The 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 actions that secure at least 30 per cent of funding for regional, rural and remote Australia.
“In my meetings with the Housing Minister, I have urged her to commit one-third of the Housing Australia Future Fund to projects in regional, rural and remote areas; a fair share when almost one third of Australians live in the regions,” Dr Haines said.
“In my view, the Government has missed the contextual challenges of regional Australia’s housing shortage by lumping it alongside the urban shortages experienced by our city cousins, when we know the regional challenges are different. There is no ‘one size fits all approach’ to solving the housing crisis.
“Regional Australia needs a $2 billion Regional Housing Infrastructure fund, because councils need a leg up to build the sewerage and drainage, pavements and pipes that will prepare land for new homes to be built. It’s about building communities not just houses.”
The one-day event held at Old Parliament House included a series of panel discussions, keynote speeches, workshops and ‘open mic’ opportunities for attendees to share their local experiences ofthe regional housing crisis.
“The personal stories of people struggling to find appropriate housing and challenges with building costs are issues I have heard from people in Indi also. Communities are worried about housing availability and affordability,” Dr Haines said.
“From the suburbs of Wodonga and Wangaratta to our busy tourism towns of Beechworth, Bright and Mansfield, there is a shortage of social and affordable housing and key worker accommodationin our region.
“Mortgage stress, rising interest rates and increases to rents are a constant concern for local peopleand they are a major factor of the cost-of-living crisis being felt across the country.”
Dr Haines addressed an audience of more than 200 people in-person and 100 online attendees, calling on participants to tell their local Federal MP to support her regional housing Bill.
“I know all of us here today are committed to finding real, tangible and deliverable solutions. In politics, it is very easy to identify problems. What is hard, is finding solutions,” Dr Haines said.
“As an Independent Member of Parliament, I have always made it my mission not to just listen to and learn about the problem, but to work with my communities to come up with ideas to solve the problem, and work with Government, whoever they are, to achieve these solutions.
“This Summit has brought us together, from right across the country, to tackle this truly wicked problem, but more importantly to look for solutions and to increase our effectiveness by working together to do so.”