Nearly every week, there are news reports about the difficulty of renting a home in WA. The stories focus on a lack of rentals, the long queues to view a listing and the frustration and disappointment of those who miss out.
The data supports these stories — the rental vacancy rate in Perth currently sits below 1 per cent, the lowest in four decades and rent prices keep rising.
This crisis is far from unique to Perth. The National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation is forecasting a shortfall of more than 160,000 houses across Australia between 2025 and 2032.
The Federal Government is aware of the gravity of the situation. Since winning the election last year, the Albanese Government has announced a housing accord, the establishment of a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund and a National Housing Supply and Affordability Council.
The housing accord has a strong focus on the supply of homes, a real positive after years of policy that focused squarely on first-homebuyers and demand-side assistance. It also includes commitments to improve rental housing, which is increasingly becoming the area of most concern for housing affordability and availability.
This is a welcome change and sets the scene for a broader conversation focused on getting all Australians into stable, secure housing, regardless of their form of tenure.
Yet despite these positives, the housing accord lacks detail and firm commitments. Furthermore, much of the actual work required to meet the goals falls not on the Federal Government, but on the States and Territories, local governments and the private sector.
The accord’s headline commitment to deliver 1 million new homes over five years from 2024 is admirable. Yet there has been no further explanation of who is responsible for delivering these houses, how this commitment will be tracked and evaluated.
To achieve its goals, the Federal Government plans to rely heavily on encouraging private sector investment to increase housing supply. This is often easier said than done.
For the accord to be successful there are key areas that the WA Government will need to prioritise.
The lack of availability in the private rental market means this situation is only likely to get worse in the short term. Continued investment in social housing, by both State and Federal governments, is required to increase social housing stock and improve outcomes for the State’s most vulnerable people.
Critical to achieving increased social housing is the capacity to build new homes. WA has been plagued by skills shortages in the construction industry. Without addressing these shortages, we are unlikely to meet the accord’s targets.
The housing accord’s commitments and policy direction still need further development. By focusing on planning and zoning reform, boosting social housing and addressing capacity constraints, it could drive real change in the Australian housing landscape.
But plans and strategy are not enough. Ultimately, the accord will be judged on its outcomes and impact.
This article first appeared in The West Australian on 17 February 2023.