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Labor caves to Greens on housing funding, next fight is for renters at National Cabinet

Labor caves to Greens on housing funding, next fight is for renters at National Cabinet

17 June 2023

After months of saying there was no additional money to directly fund affordable housing this year, Labor has backflipped and found $2b that can be spent on public and affordable housing after 1 July this year. The Greens have been demanding Labor fund more public and affordable housing immediately - not after the next election, as Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund would do - as well as acting to freeze and limit rent increases.

Labor’s backflip comes after the Greens have repeatedly called for the establishment of a new fund to make payments to the States and Territories to immediately purchase and construct public and affordable housing.  

The Greens say that the pressure is now on Labor to act at National Cabinet on freezing and limiting rent increases.The Greens have two key demands, an annual spend of $2.5 billion a year for public and affordable housing and a nationally coordinated freeze and cap on rent increases. Today’s announcement is a one-off spend of $2 billion so the Greens will continue to push for an increased annual guaranteed spend and real action for renters.

This is the second move from Labor in the space of a week towards gaining Greens’ support for the HAFF, after last week they were forced to close a loophole to guarantee a fixed $500 million disbursement, relenting to sustained Greens pressure that the Fund may not disburse any money at all in the event it doesn’t make a return. However, the HAFF’s disbursement would not occur for another 12 months, would not be indexed until 2029, and would be unable to be increased without action from the Treasurer.

Using exactly the same mechanism by which the Greens have been advocating for a rent freeze - a national fund to incentivize states and territories to act - the government has today incentivised states and territories to undertake planning reforms. Federal Labor now has no excuse for not incentivising states to freeze rent increases for two years to allow wages to catch up, then limit rent increases to 2% every 24 months thereafter.

The Greens Party Room will meet next week to consider this development, and we remain committed to continuing to negotiate with the government in good faith on their Housing Australia Future Fund Bill. 

National Cabinet is due to meet in August to further consider housing and renters rights, which must include limits on rental increases.

Lines attributable to Greens Leader Adam Bandt:

“Labor has caved in to the Greens on housing funding, and now they must act on soaring rents.

“What they said were impossible Greens demands yesterday, Labor has done today.

“The pressure is now on the Prime Minister and the Labor Premiers to deliver a rent freeze and limits on future rent increases when National Cabinet next meets.”

“Under pressure from the Greens, Labor’s National Cabinet has acted on housing funding, finding money they said wasn’t there, and now Labor must again listen to the Greens and make unlimited rent increases illegal.”

Lines attributable to Max Chandler-Mather MP, Greens spokesperson for housing and homelessness 

“Barely a month after Labor’s Budget said there was no more money for public and affordable housing, the Greens have forced an extra $2b from the government.

“Everything is impossible until it’s not. Labor told us that there was no more money in the budget and that the Future Fund was the only way to fund any new public housing. Well today Labor has caved into pressure from the Greens, and admitted they were wrong. 

“This is what happens when the Greens stand up to Labor and demand real action on the housing crisis, and now the Greens will use our power to win a freeze and caps on rent increases.

“Without the Greens, Labor would have passed a plan that didn’t guarantee a cent in housing funding, but after months of pressure the Greens have forced Labor to guarantee $500 million a year and invest an extra $2 billion right now in social housing. 

“Labor has admitted they can spend $2 billion directly on housing, now they need to commit to investing real money every year and finally take action to make unlimited rent increases illegal.”

“When Labor is spending $30 billion a year on the Stage 3 tax cuts, it’s an indictment on the Labor party and the Prime Minister that the Greens had to fight this hard just to secure $2 billion for social housing. 

“Unlimited rent increases should be illegal. Labor has shown today they can use incentives to get the states to act on planning through National Cabinet: now they should do the same and incentivise every state and territory to freeze rent increases for two years and cap rent increases from that point onward.”

“Privately and publicly, we’ve repeatedly put to the Prime Minister and Housing Minister that the Government should just spend money from the budget right now, directly on building and buying new public housing, and as the result of our pressure that’s what the PM is announcing today.”

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