The following is a brief summary of the commitments in the Australian Government’s 2023-24 Budget for homelessness, housing, and modern slavery.
Housing and Homelessness:
The budget lacked any sizeable investment in measures that would markedly reduce the number of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It did include some investment to increase social and affordable housing, such as:
Build to Rent Incentives:
- Tax incentives to encourage investment in the Build-to-Rent sector to help expand Australia’s housing supply include:
- increasing the rate for the capital works tax deduction (depreciation) to 4% per year
- reducing the final withholding tax rate on eligible fund payments from managed investment trust investments from 30% to 15%
- Increasing the Government guaranteed liability cap of the National Housing and Finance Investment Corporation (NHFIC) by $2 billion to $7.5 billion to enable NHFIC to increase its support for social and affordable housing through loans from the Affordable Housing Bond Aggregator.
National Housing Supply and Affordability Council:
The Australian Government is establishing a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council to deliver independent advice to the Government on housing policy, to increase housing supply and affordability. The budget included funding for an additional 3 members to be appointed to the Council to provide a greater breadth of policy expertise.
The National Housing Supply and Affordability Council will guide the development of the Australian Government’s National Housing and Homelessness Plan. Consultations for input to the development of the plan will open shortly.
Other commitments include:
- An additional funding of $67.5 million in 2023-24 to boost homelessness funding to states and territories. The funding will be used to support the provision of homelessness services through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement in 2023-24.
- $111.7 million in 2023–24 for a new one-year partnership with the Northern Territory Government to accelerate building of new remote housing to reduce overcrowding.
- The Households Energy Upgrades Fund allocates $300 million over 4 years from to support upgrades to social housing to improve energy efficiency.
- The Government will also invest in new services to help homeless people and culturally and linguistically diverse communities to access primary care, allocating $25.4 million to establish a Homelessness Support Program to support homeless people’s access to primary care services.
Increased support for low income earners:
- An additional $40 per fortnight for people on income support payments, increasing JobSeeker to $52.85 per day (the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee recommended that JobSeeker be urgently increased to at least $76 per day to lift people out of poverty)
- Increase in CRA (Commonwealth Rent Assistance) by 15%, the largest increase for 3 decades, impacting around 1.1million households.
- Expanding Parenting Payment (Single) for primary carers, of which 91% are women, until their youngest child turns 14 (was 8 years of age)
- Increase income support for people over 55 years of age who have been unemployed for more than nine months.
Two very welcome provisions regarding modern slavery were announced in the budget. The Mercy Foundation has joined the sector in calling for both a National Anti-Slavery Commissioner and to provide survivors with a pathway to support that does not require victims to engage with law enforcement, a major barrier for many survivors. The budget provides:
- $8 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $2.0 million per year ongoing) to establish an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to work across Government, industry and civil society, to support compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2018, to improve transparency in supply chains and help fight modern slavery in Australia and abroad.
- $24.3 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $5.9 million per year ongoing) to pilot an additional referral pathway for the Support for Trafficked People Program and restructure the program to better meet the needs of victim-survivors, while increasing ongoing funding to address current and projected demand.
- $11.3 billion to support the Fair Work Commission’s decision to provide an interim increase of 15 % to award wages for many aged care workers. More than 250,000 workers will benefit from the decision
- An additional $589.3 million for women’s safety, which includes supporting implementation of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women 2022-2023.