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ALGA submission to Housing Legislative Package 

ALGA has provided a submission to the Federal Government’s Housing Legislative Package. 

Across Australia, the supply and availability of affordable housing is a critical issue facing most local governments and their communities. 

The lack of suitable housing impacts the well-being and economic productivity of local communities. 

Councils can play a key role in facilitating and helping build affordable housing in our communities, and that’s why ALGA – which is a signatory to the Housing Accord – is supportive of a national coordinated response to the housing crisis, including further investment in social and affordable housing. 

Read ALGA’s submission here. 

President’s Column – 19 July 2019

Local councils are at the forefront of community efforts to tackle Australia’s worsening housing affordability and homelessness challenges.

While people sleeping rough on the street in our capital cities is of course a problem, our communities in rural, regional and remote Australia are also responding to housing challenges including lack of affordable housing, or overcrowding.

Councils engage in many ways in housing depending on the issues and priorities in their communities. For example, by using excess council land or buildings for housing, collaborating with local community service providers, hosting local housing forums, or providing information about homelessness services, and helping meet housing needs through council-owned caravan parks.

Many councils also deliver or engage with homelessness services, among them:

• City of Salisbury (SA) – Assistance with Care and Housing Project which aims to support those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to access appropriate and sustainable housing.
• City of Fremantle (WA) – Solutions based approach to interactions between front line staff and people who are homeless.
• Parramatta City Council, Liverpool City Council and North Sydney Council (NSW) – All have developed Homelessness Strategies, Policies or Action Plans.

Cairns Regional Council has a guide on tropical building design which seeks to minimise housing energy costs. Many councils promote the development of low cost “tiny homes”, that can be either wheeled or permanently fixed on a plot of land. Mitchell Shire on Melbourne’s northern fringes is supporting the Transition Village Wallan project where 10 off-grid tiny homes will be built for homeless people.

At ALGA’s 2019 Regional Cooperation and Development Forum and National General Assembly, researchers involved in the ARC Linkage Project on Local Government and Housing in Australia for the 21st Century explained what local councils outside the capital cities are doing to meet their local challenges.

According to Emeritus Professor John Martin of La Trobe University, Gwydir Shire Council (NSW) works in a range of housing areas, such as owning and renting out six houses, is a guarantor for mortgages through the Regional Australia Bank, has an infill strategy that encourages ‘granny flats’, and collects rent on state-owned public housing which it uses to maintain the properties.

As University of South Australia Business School’s Professor Andrew Beer told the NGA, local governments are providing many local housing services, such as ensuring a supply of land, engaging with other tiers of government, coordinating social services, and developing and implementing planning schemes.

Professor Beer said senior levels of government often don’t understand the important role local governments can play in housing, and sometimes local councils have been blamed for policy settings not of their making.

Councils are often unfairly criticised for lack of land availability even when they are constrained by financial resources and legislative requirements. Land availability is a complex issue not simply addressed by rezoning for residential purposes.

Rezoned land also requires appropriate local and state level infrastructure and services to ensure not just a supply of housing, but the creation of liveable communities.

Professor Beer also noted that while local governments are doing good work in the housing sector, there’s a sense of reluctance among some to share that good news because of fears of further cost-shifting by more other tiers of government.

I can understand that reluctance.

Twelve councils from across regional, metropolitan and regional Australia, and the Local Government Association of SA are partners in the Local Government and Housing research project. I encourage you to visit the site for project updates, as the project is due to finish by the end of 2019.

I look forward to learning more about the various ways local government is stepping up to addressing housing needs in our communities, and sharing them with you.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: A focus report on housing and homelessness

Fostering Indigenous well-being and prosperity is a key priority in ALGA’s federal election campaign. The ALGA President advocated for this and particularly funding for Indigenous housing at this week’s Joint Council on Closing the Gap meeting in Brisbane.

We welcome the report on Indigenous Housing and re-enforces the need for ALGAs advocacy on this issue.

Stable and secure housing is fundamentally important to health and well-being. Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced much higher rates of homelessness and have been overrepresented among clients seeking homelessness and social housing services than non-Indigenous Australians.

This report released today examines the profiles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in both the housing and homelessness sectors over time, using multiple data sources and visualisation tools. Historically, Indigenous Australians have been over-represented among clients seeking homelessness and social housing services. This report shows that the housing situation of Indigenous Australians has improved—with rises in home ownership and housing provided through the private rental market, and falling levels of homelessness. The report is available on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website.

Inclusionary Zoning For Affordable Housing

National Shelter has released its latest report on Inclusionary Zoning. The report is available here. The report scanned recent literature, current inclusionary zoning arrangements in each state and territory and conducted a survey of over 350 respondents. The findings included that incentives are required to achieve social and affordable housing, there are inconsistent approaches to inclusionary zoning between jurisdictions, concerns about the loss of affordability after the first purchase and the public does not have good understanding of inclusionary zoning and education is required.

President’s Column: 22 March 2019

One of ALGA’s election priorities is to foster indigenous well-being and prosperity. Key to this is closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Only modest progress has been achieved, with only one target met, and Indigenous Australians remain well behind on a range of indicators.

Stable, safe and appropriate housing is fundamental to reaching these objectives. A decent night’s sleep for all and orderly routines for kids are so much harder to achieve in over-crowded, worn out or undersized homes.

So, it was frustrating to hear at last week’s ALGA Board Meeting about the political games being played with remote indigenous housing in the NT and the fact that national partnership agreements for remote indigenous housing still have not been signed off with SA or QLD and that WA has a one-off deal but is concerned that the Commonwealth intends to walk away from long-term funding support for remote housing.

This situation has to be urgently resolved so some of our most vulnerable communities and families are not left in limbo about their future services. ALGA will continue to advocate at every possible opportunity for the renewal of long term national partnership agreements and adequate funding to address the needs of Indigenous communities particularly in areas of overcrowding, homelessness and the severe shortage of housing in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.

An additional but very important benefit of long term housing funding is the opportunity for local apprenticeships. Upon completion these young workers become tradespeople and perhaps even local indigenous business people. With long term funding they can thrive and be involved in the construction and maintenance of housing over the longer term. They can take on their own apprentices and provide valuable ongoing employment opportunities which are so important in remote communities. The economic benefits of long term funding has been proven in outback Queensland and is something I have advocated strongly for at COAG.

At the December COAG meeting there was agreement to establish a formal partnership between governments and Indigenous Australians through their representatives. This Closing the Gap Partnership Agreement recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must play an integral part in making decisions that affect their lives. I am pleased ALGA will be a signatory to this important agreement that will progress the Closing the Gap framework which focuses on key areas including health, education, housing, economic development and employment.

We are also watching closely the implications for local government of the High Court decision concerning Timber Creek. The decision relates to a claim for compensation by the Ngaliwurru Nungali People for the impairment and extinguishment of their native title rights and interests caused by the grant of development and Crown leases and freehold and the construction of public works over 127 hectares of land in the town of Timber Creek in the Northern Territory. The compensation claim related to the loss of spiritual attachment and also economic loss.

At present the Commonwealth, States and Territories are liable for native title compensation for land dealings and public works that have occurred since the enactment of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. However parties, including local governments, that extinguish or impair native title may also find themselves liable for compensation in the future if the State or Territory or the Commonwealth legislate to pass onto the proponent of activities any requirement to pay compensation. To date they have not done so and we will advocate that local governments are protected from any change in the legislation.

On a final note, on behalf of the ALGA Board and secretariat, I express my extreme sorrow and heartfelt condolences for the families of those lost in the horrific attacks last week in New Zealand.

One of the great honours I and all Mayors, Chair and Presidents have is to bestow Australian Citizenship on those who have come to our country to share and prosper in our wonderful way of life. All candidates have to read out a pledge of loyalty to Australia and its People, “whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey”. It at times like these that I wish all Australian citizens had to make the pledge, not just our newest arrivals.

Keep up the great work,

David O’Loughlin
ALGA President