As the general housing affordability crisis deepens, nothing the Federal Government says in its plan to tackle the growing issue will make it easier for Indigenous tenants in social housing who are already doing it tough.
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Source:
The Point
12 Apr 2017 - 4:40 PM  UPDATED 12 Apr 2017 - 4:47 PM

Aboriginal Housing Victoria manages more than 1500 properties in Melbourne and regional Victoria. It provides affordable housing to over 4000 low income Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in that state. 

It's housing services target those most in need of support. 

CEO of Aboriginal Housing Victoria, Darren Smith, says the Federal Government's latest plan to tackling the growing housing affordability crisis will not make it easier for many Indigenous tenants living in social housing who are already doing it tough. 

"Most of our tenants are single mums living alone in their properties, so any changes to their welfare payments has an enormous impact on their ability to even just pay rent," he told NITV. 

In a major address earlier this week, Treasurer Scott Morrison, confirmed the Coalition's vocal opposition to changing negative gearing tax concessions. 

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Mr Morrison says a change would not be good news for the thirty per cent of Australian households who rent. 

"You cannot make the reckless 'trust us' assumption, as the Labor Party have done, that making significant changes to negative gearing would not have a negative impact on rents and the availability of rental stock," the Treasurer said. 

Mr Morrison says more private investment is needed to boost supply. 

But Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen disagrees. He says the government's plan sells out all Australians. 

"This speech is nothing short of a disgrace. It's a sellout to all Australians, particularly young Australians, trying to get into the housing market," he said. 

"But apart from ruling out any changes to negative gearing, that's the only single policy he is announcing, a policy to do nothing. Any housing affordability plan which doesn't involve reform to negative gearing is a sham," Mr Bowen said. 

Darren Smith from Aborigial Housing Victoria says while there are similarities between Indigenous and non-indigenous social housing tenants, the contrast is stark. 

"When we look at the problems our Aboriginal tenants face, they are similar to the problems that non-Aboriginal tenants face in social housing. But I think the difference is the level of disadvantage in Aboriginal communities," he said. 

Pointing to a 2016 COAG report, Mr Morrison said the government was spending more than $6.8 billion dollars per year to improve housing affordability.

Despite the spend, more Australians are experiencing rental stress in the last decade and there are more homeless people.

According to the report, the target to reduce overcrowding in Indigenous households has only seen a marginal decrease, and the rate of Indigenous Australians owning their own home is not improving. 

Darren Smith says the opportunity for many of his tenants to own their own home surpasses local and state levels.

"At the moment, it is very difficult for our tenants to become home-owners. They face the hurdle of access to finance, so there is need for creative schemes. It's a question beyond Aboriginal Victoria itself - it's something we'd like to work together with governments at a Commonwealth and a state level if we are going to see homeownership schemes that work for Aboriginal Victorians," he said. 

Scott Morrison says providing more housing for those in need will help to tackle the crisis. 

"We need more housing, not just for homeowners, but for renters, for key workers such as nurses, teachers and police officers who can't afford to rent or buy in the communities they serve, and for those on low incomes, the disabled and disadvantaged. And then there is the challenge of Indigenous housing, a whole other story with its own unique challenges," he said. 

Aboriginal Housing Victoria works to address some of those challenges for Indigenous Victorians.

In a landmark move, the housing company was given $500 million in social housing assets from the state government to own, manage and develop more than 1400 properties.

But Darren Smith says the transfer doesn't solve all of the problems. 

"This is not the 'be all and end all' for solving housing for Aboriginal people in Australia. This model doesn't provide individual home ownership for Aborignal people which is got to be part of the solution towards closing the gap for Aboriginal Australians in outcomes." 

Superannuation proposal met with division 

The Federal Government's plans to address housing affordability will be revealed in the 9 May budget. 

One of the ideas being floated is to allow young people to dip into their superannuation for a home deposit, with the controversial proposal causing division within the Coalition and amongst industry. 

Deloitte Access Economics Director Chris Richardson has warned against the idea. 

"That would be adding extra money into a market that's already pretty heated," he told the National Press Club today. 

His advice to young Australians is not to buy in the current market.

"Let’s not forget that rents today make a lot more sense than housing prices today."

Resources Minister Matt Canavan is urging his colleagues to at least consider the proposal.

“It's been used in other countries and it's something we should certainly consider," Minister Canavan told ABC Radio.

Meanwhile, a string of Coalition MPs are reportedly opposed to the idea, including Nationals MP Andrew Broad, who labelled the proposal a "lazy response" in a tweet. 

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