Stable, secure housing provides a platform for economic and social participation
Stable and secure housing is the primary platform for connection to economic and social community life. High housing costs limits people’s opportunities more than any other factor. Increasing rents and house prices mean people struggle to stay housed, are forced to live in sub-standard homes or live far from jobs and services. Excessive housing costs make it difficult for them to cover other basic living costs.
Whether by helping people find a job, engage in education or training, overcome family violence, avoiding homelessness, or contact with the criminal justice system, SACOSS recongises that safe and securing housing enables people to overcome challenges and lift themselves out of poverty.
Homelessness is largely an issue because people cannot find safe, secure affordable housing. There are 37.5 homeless people per 10,000 population in South Australia according to Homelessness Australia. A Productivity Commission report on Government services in 2016 found that 35% of South Australians on low incomes were experiencing housing stress.
Providing more affordable housing in South Australia would assist in meeting the needs of people who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness because there are limited or no housing options.
SACOSS calls for a Community Housing Scheme
Community housing serves a crucial role in the provision of stable housing and support for those transitioning out of homelessness. As part of the social housing mix, providing flexible options that meet a diversity of needs and securing joint ventures between public and private investors.
In its 2017-18 State Budget Submission, SACOSS proposed a $250 million Community Housing Loan Scheme to enable registered community housing providers to build and deliver more affordable housing. The scheme would be financed through a rolling fund of the South Australian Government Financing Authority similar to the facility offered to non-government schools in the South Australian 2016-17 State Budget for construction of new or updated learning facilities.
An important consideration was to ensure that any houses built under such a scheme were fully digital ready using best quality digital technology. This, coupled with other support outlined in the SACOSS 2017-18 State Budget Submission, that would enable the tenants to access information and communication technology for life’s economic, social and community activities in the digital world.
In addition SACOSS called for further assistance is required to upgrade existing community housing stock for digital inclusion.
State Taxes and Housing Affordability
Housing affordability is impacted to a great degree by government taxes which provide incentives or barriers to investment, but also can inflate demand and prices. Most of the tax arrangements which impact on the housing market are the domain of the federal government (eg. negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts), but at the state level real estate stamp duty on property sales and land taxes also impact on affordability.
Stamp duties are the second biggest tax source for the South Australian government, but the tax is inefficient as it adds to the cost of purchasing a house which not only increasing the affordability challenge for many, but also discourages people from moving to follow jobs or to change houses as their needs change (eg. downsizing after children leave home). While most economists argue that an annual land tax would be more efficient, it too comes with affordability problems - particularly for those who are asset-rich but income poor. In response to the 2015 State Tax Review, SACOSS came up with a set of safeguards so that swapping stamp duties for a land tax would not adversely impact on low income home-owners. If these were put in place, then replacing the real estate stamp duties could be a contribution to housing affordability. For more information, see SACOSS' Submission to the State Tax Review.
The other way South Australian state taxes could contribute to housing affordability by providing a disincentive for property owners to leave property idle. SACOSS has proposed a disused building tax, essentially an additional tax on vacant properties. The Victorian government has now announced a Vacant Residential Property Tax on residential properties left vacant for more than 6 months in a calendar year. This was an attempt to get more properties into the market and relieve supply driven price pressures. In response, SACOSS has again called on the South Australian government to consider a vacant property tax.