Proposed revised housing policy

Proposed revised housing policy

Below is a proposed revised version of the Socialist Alliance housing policy.  The current version can be seen here.

The main changes are: 

  • I have added some text about the need to expand public housing. 
  • I have replaced a reference to “social housing” with “public housing”. (For an explanation of this change, click here.)
  • I have reordered the points under a new set of headings. (This is because the current division between “long term” and “interim” measures seems arbitrary to me). 
  • I have replaced the term “housing finance corporation” with “public housing construction enterprise”. 
  • I have amended the point on prioritisation. 
  • I have left out the point on how to fund the corporation/enterprise, which currently reads:  “Fund the corporation from developer contributions via local and state government planning laws, taxation, superannuation funds”.  (I think that once the banks have been nationalised, the banking system will be the one of the main sources of finance for public housing, but I don't think it is necessary to specify this). 

Most of the other points I have left unchanged (though some of them could perhaps be improved). 

The introductory section headed “Context” would remain unchanged, and I have not included it below. 

Policy  

Proposed revised version: my changes other than re-ordering are in bold type. 

Housing is a basic human right that should not be reduced to a commodity only available at the whim of the market. We aim for housing that is affordable, secure, good quality, appropriately located, for all.

Expand public housing:

  • Socialist Alliance advocates a massive expansion of public housing. We would like to reach the situation where anyone who wants public housing can get it without delay. Public housing should not be a residual service grudgingly provided only to those who can prove they are extremely poor. It should be available for all workers who want it. 
  • In Venezuela the government is carrying out a massive program of house building — tens of thousands of units are being built each year, moving families from slums into decent modern apartments. There is no reason why a rich country like Australia cannot do the same. 
  • In the past there have been some cases in Australia where public housing went beyond the residual model. For example the South Australian Housing Trust used to supply accommodation for a significant section of the South Australian working class. 
  • The state and federal governments should construct high quality public housing for working-class people on a large scale. This would also create jobs.
  • Each government should therefore establish a publicly-owned and controlled not-for-profit public housing construction enterprise to:
  • Maintain current public housing stock, including retrofitting for energy efficiency with insulation and solar hot water;
  • Establish a large-scale building program to make good quality, creatively designed, energy efficient, appropriately located, affordable, long term public housing with a low carbon footprint, to suit a wide variety of domestic arrangements, including the needs of people living communally, in extended families and in Aboriginal communities, available for all who choose it; and
  • Invest in social infrastructure to support housing - local health services, education, employment and other services and access to quality public transport.
  • Work with construction unions to implement the construction and maintenance program and include an investment in apprenticeships and training to meet the labour needs.
  • Prioritise the housing needs of the most disadvantaged people, including homeless people, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal people (especially those in remote areas), then progressively expand access to public housing until all who want it can get it.
  • Community control of public housing through democratically-elected housing boards comprised of tenants and housing workers.

Regulating the private sector:

  • Address spiralling rental price increases by implementing rent control laws similar to those in place in Los Angeles and New York, which limit the amount that rent can be increased and all rents to be capped at a maximum of 20% of income.
  • Mandate high standards for private accommodation and require landlords to fix problems and maintain private housing stock in good condition. Nationalise and renovate all substandard landlord holdings.
  • State and local governments planning frameworks to legislate for developer allocations of 30% of housing for low rent tenants in major new developments
  • (OR: State and local governments planning frameworks must force private developers to allocate 30% of housing for low-rent tenants in every development).
  • Strengthen legislation covering the rights of both public and private tenants, including the right to long-term leases.

Assistance to home buyers, renters, and people with special needs:

  • Provide low-interest home loans for those in need
  • Extend rent assistance to low income home buyers for mortgage assistance.
  • Extend rent assistance to those receiving Austudy payments.
  • Increase funding to the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) to a level sufficient to provide crisis accommodation for all who need it, as well as to maintain support services to assist homeless persons into independent accommodation and preventive programs for those at risk of homelessness. Ensure a continuum of support from crisis accommodation through to long-term stable accommodation.
  • Expand funding to, and support the development of, resident controlled housing co-operatives.
  • Provide high quality, community-based, supported accommodation for people with disabilities or other special needs. Fully fund refuges and other secure emergency accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence.
  • Provide outreach workers to seek out service providers who may qualify for SAAP to guide them through the funding process, in order to ease the onerous bureaucratic requirements that these service providers have to endure in order to get and retain funding.Provide additional funding to community organisations to enable them to provide education, training and housing assistance packages to young homeless people.
  • Provide additional funding for programs which provide support services for the aged homeless including additional funding to ensure greater access to aged care accommodation.

Building workers' rights: 

  • Abolish anti-union laws and “codes of conduct”, which have been used to attack building workers.
  • All overseas workers to work under the same award conditions as Australian workers. 
  • Crack down on sham contracting in the building industry. 

Other: 

  • Eliminate capital gains tax exemptions and negative gearing, which inflate the market and keep lower income people out of home ownership.