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Government Starts Affordable Housing Taskforce, Targets Public Housing

Hopes to develop new, cheap loan model for social housing providers.

The Federal Government has established a new housing taskforce with the aim of developing a funding model to deliver cheap loans to social housing providers.

Housing affordability is arguably the hot-button issue in politics at the moment, with spiralling house prices fuelling fears that an entire generation of young people may be locked out of the property market for many years.

The Government has flatly shrugged off any talk of addressing negative gearing or capital gains tax, which many economists and housing experts have cited as a key factor in affordability issues, but have instead been talking up a grab-bag of policy ideas to target housing issues.

The latest idea the Government hopes will go some way to easing housing troubles is its new Affordable Housing Implementation Taskforce, announced by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Friday. Just hours after reports emerged in Fairfax Media that the idea was on the table, Morrison confirmed the plan to establish a 'bond aggregator' model -- where the Government would source cheap loans from the private market, and supply the cash to social housing providers.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has promised big housing action in the May budget.
Treasurer Scott Morrison has promised big housing action in the May budget.

"An affordable housing bond aggregator would allow a financial intermediary to attract greater private sector investment into affordable housing. This would give community housing providers access to cheaper and longer term debt, freeing up capital for the construction of new affordable housing," Morrison said in a statement.

"The Turnbull Government recognises that housing affordability remains a concern for many hard working Australians, including the 30 per cent of Australians who live in rented homes, and those who rely on affordable and social housing."

The idea of a bond aggregator model has found success in the United Kingdom, a country Morrison and government officials have been looking to for inspiration on housing market action. Under the model, social housing providers would be able to access low-interest, long-term loans to build new housing stock. The measures won't do much for middle-income people earning average money and struggling to get into the market, but will give assurance to low-income people reliant on the public housing system.

The Working Group, which will "report back by the middle of the year", could be seen as softening the ground for a major upheaval in how social housing is funded. Morrison has recently been on the attack over the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), a $1.3 billion social housing funding arrangement, which the Treasurer called a" one-way ATM to the states" after it was revealed the stock of public housing had actually decreased in the lifespan of the plan.

Morrison has been hinting that the NAHA may be rolled back in the May budget, sparking fears in the social housing and homelessness community that their clients would be left high and dry. The bond aggregator model might be the model proposed to replace such a housing agreement, replacing a billion-dollar government handout with a model to provide loans which would be paid back.

The federal budget is May 9, and the Treasurer has been teasing big action on housing affordability.

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