The government last night announced its 2020-21 Federal Budget, detailing, among other things, tax cuts brought forward, JobMaker credits to hire those on JobSeeker and payments to aged pensioners. 

While many of the decisions in the budget were well-received, one omission from the budget that's been quite poorly received is the lack of investment in social housing. 

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Social housing had been one of the more talked about stimulus measures prior to the budget. 

Spending on social housing was the most backed stimulus measure according to nearly 50 economists surveyed by The Conversation, while other advocates and economists had called for the funding of as many as 30,000 new social housing projects, to not only tackle homelessness but to create work in the construction industry

While the budget does include some funding for construction, such as the extension of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme for new home builds, Labor’s Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher said the current budget doesn't do enough, citing social housing as one of the reasons. 

“No plan for social housing, cheaper and cleaner energy, or to address the crisis in aged care. No plan to kickstart the economy, boost productivity, increase participation, or lift the speed limit on growth," Dr Chalmers and Senator Gallagher said. 

Shadow Housing Minister Jason Clare meanwhile said yesterday that "every housing organisation in the country" had called for more social housing investment". 

"The Master Builders Association, the Property Council, the Housing Industry Association, all called for more government money for social housing. These aren't organisations that are card carrying members of the Labor Party. They're not raging socialists," Mr Clare said. 

"These aren't organisations that called for more money for social housing because they desperately want to end homelessness. They called for it because it would mean keeping their members in work. Building houses keeps their members working. And last night they were let down."

Mr Clare also said that for every dollar invested into social housing, three dollars are returned to the economy. 

"Devastating" and "a total failure"

Several key social groups took to the media following last night's budget to express their concerns over the lack of social housing investment. 

Homelessness Australia said the budget not only failed to invest in social housing but also cut $41 million from homeless services from 2021. 

Homelessness Australia Chair Jenny Smith said the budget was devastating. 

"In a year with huge increases in unemployment creating a surge in rental stress and homelessness, the Federal Government has chosen to slash homelessness funding," Ms Smith said. 

"Without increases in social housing and with even less resources for homelessness services, many families will become stuck in homelessness for a long time.

“The Government has ignored advice from all corners: from top economists, property industry and community sector leaders, as well as popular support from the community; all calling for the Government to invest in social housing to both create thousands of new jobs each year and to deliver enormous social good."

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey meanwhile called the government's response "a shocking failure". 

"It is shocking that the Federal Budget hasn’t done enough to commit to long-term investment to address the serious shortage of social homes in Australia," Mr Toomey said. 

“Ensuring everyone has a safe and secure place to call home is a national responsibility that was ignored in this year’s Federal Budget.

“Investing in 30,000 social homes within the next four years is an obvious solution that will not only help to end homelessness in Australia but will also create vital jobs in the construction industry.

“Despite a significant investment in infrastructure in this year’s Federal Budget to help create jobs, we are deeply disappointed the essential social infrastructure of social housing has been ignored.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie was also of the opinion that no social housing investment is disappointing, given the need for affordable housing for those on low incomes. 

“The Budget misses key opportunities to generate jobs quickly by investing in social housing construction to reduce homelessness, and in energy efficiency upgrades for low-income households to reduce energy bills and climate emissions," Dr Goldie said. 

“Overall, the Budget does not deliver enough investment to pull us out of the historic slump we’re in without leaving people behind. The Government will need to do more to ensure that we are all in the recovery together."

Before COVID-19 there were 116,000 homeless people in Australia and more than 800,000 living in rental stress, according to Everybody's home, a national campaign aiming to create a fairer housing system.

A mid-year report on rental affordability by Anglicare in September found a mere 1% of rentals across Australia are deemed "affordable" for those on the current rate of JobSeeker. 

By letting JobSeeker fall back to the old '$40 a day' rate in December, just 13 properties would be affordable nationwide. 

The budget made no reference to the current scheduled JobSeeker reductions being altered, although social services Minister Anne Ruston has said these will be open to further review. 

Other Federal Budget news: 

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